Good dental care is about more than just keeping your teeth and gums healthy — it’s about keeping your entire body healthy. Sometimes a problem in your mouth is a symptom of a problem elsewhere in your body, says, Todd Coy, DMD, Cleveland Clinic’s Head of Dentistry.
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For example, plaque buildup on your teeth may increase your risk for heart disease by triggering inflammation elsewhere in the body and, eventually, atherosclerosis. Gum disease and frequent infections in your mouth may mean your blood sugar is too high, a sign of diabetes.
The bottom line: Take care of your mouth. Start with these tips from Dr. Coy.
Check in and check up
Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and floss at least daily. And be sure to visit your dentist or oral hygienist every six months. Your dentist can check for health problems such as oral cancer, which you might not see or feel, and catch signs of decay so they can be treated early to prevent long-term problems.
Find the right equipment
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Traditional toothbrushes can work well, but there are many electric brushes that can be more effective for some people. There are several models, though, so ask your dentist for a recommendation. Electric toothbrushes can be especially helpful if you have arthritis.
Eat your veggies
In between cleanings, reduce plaque buildup on your teeth by limiting sugary snacks and instead choosing nutritious foods such as plain yogurt, cheese, fruit or raw vegetables. Some vegetables — celery, for example — help remove food from in between your teeth and also help your saliva to neutralize plaque-causing acids.
Reduce your cancer risk
During dental visits, ask your dentist to examine your mouth for oral cancer, particularly if you’re at high risk. And cut out tobacco: Smokers are six times more likely than non-smokers to develop oral cancer, which includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheek, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses and throat.