Are you taking care of your oral health? Adobe Stock | Wayhome Studio
Sure, you exercise and eat right. But are you paying attention to your oral health? Hudson Valley dentists sound off on what you need to know.
When most people are asked what they do to maintain good health, the answers are usually eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. What they typically don’t mention is dental care—which is a big mistake, because problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body. Here are five things you need to know about maintaining excellent oral health according to two top Hudson Valley dentists.
Your mouth is a window to overall health
“Dentists are trained to diagnose and treat teeth and gums, but we also have the ability to observe other health issues,” explains Steven P. Stern, D.M.D., founder and dental director of Windsor Dental Center in New Windsor. According to Dr. Stern, some of the diseases your dentist may be able to diagnose include diabetes (bleeding gums, dry mouth, and thirst could be warning signs), nutritional deficiencies (cracks at the corners of the mouth, sore throats, and general inflammation of the throat are all signs of possible vitamin deficiencies), and acid reflux (worn-down enamel, tooth sensitivity, and tooth decay are tell-tale signs). “Your dentist can also recognize oral cancer during a routine exam, and early detection can prevent devastating and life-threatening events,” he says.
Yes, you do need to floss
In 2016, when the Associated Press reported that the effectiveness of flossing had never been researched, a lot of people happily tossed their floss. But dentists say this is a mistake. “There’s no substitute for flossing; it’s the only way to properly clean in between teeth, the most common area for cavities,” says Dr. Erin Prunty, D.D.S, founder of Taconic Dental in Hopewell Junction, who adds that flossing below the gumline can ward off gum disease.
Never ignore gum problems
According to Dr. Stern, gum disease (periodontitis) is the leading cause of tooth loss. “It’s the ‘silent killer’ of teeth because sometimes patients are unaware that they have it,” says Dr. Stern. “If your gums are swollen, painful, or bleeding, that is a sign you have gum disease and need to see a dentist,” adds Dr. Prunty. Prevention consists of brushing at least twice daily, flossing regularly, and getting routine checkups.
Use the right toothbrush
Experts agree that if you’re using a manual toothbrush, choose one with soft bristles. Although it may seem like medium or hard bristle brushes will clean better, there’s a higher probability that over time those bristles will damage teeth and gums. That said, Dr. Stern believes your best bet is a soft-bristled electric toothbrush that’s the proper size for your mouth. “It tends to do a better job removing plaque and keeping your teeth and gums as healthy as possible because brushing pressure is more evenly distributed.”
Mouthwash isn’t merely for bad breath
Both of our experts strongly recommend using a fluoride mouthwash as part of your daily oral hygiene routine. “Rinsing with mouthwash that contains fluoride after brushing and flossing kills harmful bacteria and can strengthen the enamel coating on our teeth,” says Dr. Stern, who adds that toothpaste should always contain fluoride as well. Mouthwash can also keep your breath fresh, of course, but should never be used in place of brushing. Although there are many reasons for bad breath, Dr. Prunty says if yours is chronic, it’s time to see your dentist.
Related: The Hudson Valley’s Top Dentists of 2022 Offer Expert Dental Care