Dental Health a Personal Trainer Approach

Maintaining good, life long, oral health is similar to training at the gym. It is about the long game, not short sprints where you get yourself back on track after long lapses. It begins with good choices made daily and persists by pushing through when you are tempted by a “cheat day”. You do not need to be born a peak performing athlete to get major benefits from gym membership. All you need to do is push yourself to be a little better overall than you were the day before. Oral health is the same. It is about the small daily steps that you take over the course of decades that maintains your dentition. It is never too late to make positive changes in your life. It is always easier if you have a coach or a mentor to guide you on your journey.

There are some factors that are beyond our control. Our parents’ DNA lays the groundwork from the start. Our mother’s diet in utero and the environmental influences she was exposed to affect this baseline as well. The daily habits and routines our caregivers instill in us as kids is perhaps the greatest hurdle to overcome or maintain (if we are so lucky).

I have seen cases where pristine teeth in 20-year-olds are decimated by poor diet, soda drinking and drug use. I have also seen cases where adults are able to maintain their teeth long term after extensive restorations when changing bad habits. It goes both ways.

Preventing Teeth erosion:

  • Acidic foods and beverages that lower the pH level of your mouth encourage erosion and decay. The acidity effectively melts the hydroxyapatite crystals that make up the enamel of your teeth. Avoid soda and limit carbonated beverages in general. Citrus foods such as lemon, lime, oranges and grapefruit are healthy to eat, but in limited doses. Select a cucumber in your water rather than lemon or lime or simply choose plain water. Don’t sip on juices or flavored drinks for prolonged periods of time. This includes coffee. If you are a coffee lover, it is better for your teeth to drink the caffein quickly rather than sip on it over the course of the whole day.
  • Foods high in sugar and foods that are very processed are the perfect food for the bacteria living in your mouth. Excessive sugars, especially processed sugars, can lead to an overgrowth of cavity causing bacteria. This includes candy, starchy foods like crackers and cookies. Believe it or not, eating excessive goldfish crackers are a leading cause of cavities in children. 
  • Foods such as vegetables, non citrus fruits, and foods high in protein are healthier for the body and the mouth too. Bacteria cannot produce as much acid from these foods.

Preventing Bacterial Growth:

  • The longer you leave food particles and sugar on your teeth, the more time the bacteria living on your teeth have to eat those food particles and convert them into acid waste products. That acid is what rots your teeth. Get rid of the bacteria’s food and you will starve them to death. No bacteria means no acids eating away your teeth means no cavities!
  • This is something entirely in your control. No matter how well I clean and restore your teeth, if you do not maintain good oral hygiene you will not have healthy teeth.

Habit control :

  • Teeth grinding is the most common detrimental habit I see in my practice. This happens when patients rub their top and lower teeth together without the presence of food. The forces your jaw generates on your teeth when grinding is extreme and can cause your teeth to crack and break. Over time your teeth can become very short and can even crack in half! Many patients grind their teeth in their sleep when it is difficult to control. In this situation I recommend night guards. These are custom fitted plastic appliances that protect your teeth from the damage teeth grinding can cause.
  • Lip biting/ Nail biting habits can cause distinct cracking of the front teeth. The teeth can be restored with fillings or crowns, but if the habit continues you will break the new restorations much more easily.
  • Your teeth are not scissors! Remember that you must never use your teeth to open packaging, remove clothing tags, etc. You would be surprised to hear some of the creative ways patients have broken their teeth.

Regular Checkups and Dental Cleanings:

  • Dental cleanings and checkups give me a chance to catch any problems when they are small instead of when they are an emergency. They are also my opportunity to shine as your oral health personal trainer. Using positive reinforcement to motivate your home care and to gently guide you back onto the right track if you have strayed from the course. Check ups are a great time for me to answer any questions you might have and prevent some missteps.

Just like training at the gym, oral health care is more difficult to do solo. Let a licensed professional help guide you on your path and you will notice significant health gains.