Watch your mouth!… Strategies to protect your teeth
On one fateful 2013 autumn evening, I was racing down the pool in a butterfly stroke frenzy when one of my wisdom teeth started to ache. As I climbed out of the pool, I could feel it throbbing and was now in considerable pain. I waited a while to see if the pain would subside, but I ultimately ended up having to take some Advil right before bed to stem the pain. The first thing I did when I woke up the next morning was to schedule an emergency appointment with my local dentist that same day. I got to the dentist’s office around noon and merely fifteen minutes into the appointment, he said: “you’re gonna need a root canal… this cavity is too deep for me to cover up with porcelain”. Thankfully, he cleaned out the cavity which helped relieve the pain and scheduled an appointment for me with a trusted endodontist (root canal dentist).
The very next day, I found myself in the same exact spot I had been in ~8 months prior. I was on the same weird looking electric motorized tilt chair with a blindingly bright lamp shining right in my face, and a bevy of drills, pliers, and tweezers shoved in my mouth. I was having my second root canal in less than a year! I intuitively knew that going through this much pain in a relatively short amount of time wasn’t normal… something was clearly wrong. It was almost as if my teeth had been accumulating abuse throughout the previous decade (in which I went to the dentist maybe twice), and I was now paying for my negligence. There was no way that I could keep on going like this… It was too painful, too expensive, and too much of a waste of valuable time. I needed to find a solution, so I went digging for the best measures to take in order to avoid this nonsense in the future. Below are a few strategies I learned that you can implement to make sure you avoid my own tooth related woes in your life. It might be difficult to stay consistent, but trust me when I say that the pain of staying consistent with these suggestions each day is far far less than having to go through multiple root canals and other things of that nature.
- Get the right gear
- Brush and floss right before bed
- Use mouthwash
- Throttle back on the sweets
- Go get your teeth cleaned every 6 months
If you are really serious about this, stop what you are doing and go buy an electric toothbrush if you can afford it.
This is a big one… probably the most important point on this list.
Most of us brush and floss our teeth in the morning before work and/or school because we were trained to do so. What no one tells you though is that while brushing your teeth in the morning might be socially important, brushing and flossing your teeth right before you go to bed is far more important… period. Your toothbrush should be the last solid thing that goes in your mouth before you go to bed, and pure water should be the only thing that goes in your mouth in between the time you brush your teeth and the time you go to bed. In short, after you brush your teeth each night, you shouldn’t eat or drink anything that isn’t pure water after that. Just in case you are wondering, diet soda doesn’t count, green tea doesn’t count, and all those flavored fizzy water drinks don’t count either. Stick to just pure water if you want to be sure you’re safe.
The reason for all this is simple. If you eat anything just before you go to bed, it gives the bacteria in your mouth plenty to feed on while you sleep. When bacteria feeds on stuff in your mouth, the byproducts are acids that will eventually rot your teeth and lead to cavities. This effect is amplified when you sleep because your mouth gets dry which allows the bacteria to settle on your teeth (since they aren’t getting sloshed around as much by saliva) where their acidic metabolic byproducts can do the most damage.
Caution: You shouldn’t skip the flossing part of this. Flossing is the primary means through which you stop cavities from forming in between your teeth.
Gargle with antiseptic mouthwash at least twice a day. Once in the morning and once when you brush your teeth right before bed. This one is easy to do, so there isn’t really any excuse not to.
This one is especially difficult for me because I am a sweet tooth. Mom was right though when she kept telling you to throttle back on the sweets especially right before bed. The scientific reason behind this is that sweets contain a key material (sugar) that bacteria like to metabolize into acids that can rot your teeth.
Set up a recurring preventative check up with your dentist so that you can see him or her every 6 months. At these appointments, your dentist will likely clean your teeth and inspect your mouth for any cavities that might be in the early stages of formation. As with most things in life, the earlier any potential cavities are caught, the easier it is to reverse progression. As we all know, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.
Almost all of us are constantly bombarded by daily messages that tell us how important our health is. I have noticed that very few of these messages emphasize the importance of caring for your teeth as an integral part of leading a healthy lifestyle. To be honest, I didn’t see caring for my teeth as an integral part of leading a healthy lifestyle until it became a problem that snapped its importance squarely into focus for me. Hopefully, the tips above can help you avoid some of the tooth related annoyances that can occur when your teeth aren’t properly cared for… unless of course if you already do all these things and perhaps even more to keep your teeth healthy. From all of us here at chubaoyolu.org, please take care of yourselves and each other.