The Doctors: The truth about dental health

Red wine may reduce the growth of bacteria that can lead to gum disease, one new study suggests. And then there’s the recent health craze with oil pulling — an ancient folk remedy that involves swishing oil around your mouth for up to 20 minutes to supposedly help whiten teeth and prevent cavities, along with other health benefits. But the science is limited on both, and neither can substitute for good, old-fashioned brushing twice and flossing once every day. Good oral health may also contribute to overall health: Some studies suggest a link between gum disease and diabetes, heart disease, even Alzheimer’s. More tried-and-true ways to improve dental health:

Use fluoride toothpaste.

Not only for you, but kids too, updated recommendations from the American Dental Association (ADA) say. Fluoride is a mineral that can help strengthen tooth enamel and repair early decay. Parents should use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste — the size of a grain of rice — to brush baby’s teeth twice a day as soon as they appear. For children ages 3 to 6, increase that to pea-size.

Limit sugary foods and drinks.

That’s because when the bacteria in your mouth comes into contact with sugar, it produces acids that attack enamel, and can eventually lead to cavities and tooth sensitivity.

Don’t wait for pain.

Regular checkups can help spot troubles early on and prevent problems. Almost 25% of U.S. adults have untreated cavities, which can lead to severe pain, infections, even tooth loss. See a dentist once or twice a year; babies should get their first exam no later than their first birthday, the ADA suggests.

 

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