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smile_and_teethJust as we were getting ready for the holiday break, a CNN article caught our attention: “5 Ways to Preserve Your Teeth as You Age.” On the surface, its advice seems spot-on, but before you turn those five tips into your New Year’s resolutions, let’s take a closer look…

  1. Educate yourself on dental care
    Of course, as the author suggests, you should talk with your dentist during your regular check-ups and especially about any follow-up treatment deemed necessary – fillings, periodontal therapy and so on. The more you understand about your oral health and options for care, the more able you are to make wise decisions – and avoid doing things that may have caused your problems in the first place.

    A good resource for learning the basic lingo of dentistry is this glossary provided by the AGD.

    That said, we were less than thrilled about the overselling of fluoride in this article. Yes, fluorinated toothpaste may help some prevent cavities, but over-exposure can lead to stained and pitted teeth – and due to widespread fluoridation of water supplies, many of us are exposed to more fluoride than ever before. (Ingested fluoride doesn’t benefit teeth and carries its own troubling health risks.)

    Better than fluoride is to simply practice good, regular hygiene and eating more mindfully. Do you consume lots of soda, energy or sports drinks? How about processed cereals and other refined carbs? Candy and other sweets? Stopping these habits may be more helpful than going whole hog on fluoride.

  2. Use an electric toothbrush
    While an electric toothbrush can be extremely helpful, brushing regularly and effectively matters more. Yet as the CNN writer – a cosmetic dentist – notes, “Ninety-nine percent of patients don’t really know how to brush with a manual brush and, more important, don’t brush for the full two minutes needed.”

    Check out our previous post for more on why knowing how to use your brush is more important that what type of brush you use.

  3. If you grind or clench, wear a night guard
    Last month, we talked about how stress is one reason why you may grind your teeth while you sleep – a practice which, as the CNN piece notes, “can wear away a millimeter of tooth structure per year.”

    Think of all the damage that you are doing to your bones, teeth, and gums!

    While wearing a night guard is a great step towards reducing damage, be sure to talk to your dentist about other steps you can take to protect your teeth.

  4. Know what oral hygiene regimen is right for you
    No, the writer’s idea is NOT that you can pick and choose whether to floss and brush or not. Rather, with so many products on the market — from those that promise to whiten your teeth to those that promise help with sensitive teeth — it’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed.

    Be an informed consumer by talking to your dentist and reading up on products. Don’t get pulled into the hype of quick fixes.

  5. Choose the right dentist
    The shout-out to fellow dentists is most welcome. And really, how could anyone disagree that keeping all of your natural teeth as long as possible is anything but important?

    However, the ideal is prevention for preservation, NOT retaining teeth at any and all cost. When a tooth is diseased or damaged, you want to be sure the treatment will support the health of the whole body.

    A conventional dentist might repair a decayed tooth by placing a “silver” amalgam filling. The material used is actually about 50% mercury – a known neurotoxin of which there is no known “safe” level of exposure. Mercury is consistently released from these fillings, and if a person’s body burden becomes too great, the result is chronic, systemic illness.

    Why would any dentist knowingly place this material? It’s cheap and easy to work with, and it’s what insurance companies will pay for. Focused so much on cutting costs and saving the tooth, some dentists completely overlook non-toxic composite resins (the stuff that makes “white” fillings). Did you also know that these composite fillings can also preserve more of your tooth than is possible with mercury amalgam?

    Find a dentist who will help you prevent initial damage through routine cleanings, nutritional guidance and instruction on optimal home care. This will truly help preserve your teeth as healthy vital organs, not mere ghosts of former teeth.

Image by Mark Smith, via Flickr

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