Good dental hygiene habits are important for a healthy smile at every age. They can protect one from dental problems such as cavities and gum disease. Good dental hygiene habits are also essential for overall well-being.

October is National Dental Hygiene Month! This month is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of good dental hygiene. This health observance also celebrates the oral health preventive services provided by a dental hygienist – an important member of the dental team.

No matter what age, your oral health can be at risk for dental disease. Below are dental hygiene habits that can help protect you and your family’s oral health through some of life’s stages.

Dental Hygiene Begins Even Before a Baby’s First Tooth Appears

Cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States (CDC). It is also preventable. Good dental care habits at an early age, including regular dental visits, can reduce the risk of tooth decay. Below are ways parents and caregivers can help their children, from newborn to early childhood, with their dental hygiene.

  • Caring for your baby’s gums. Use a clean washcloth and a little bit of water. Once a day, wet a washcloth with water, wrap it around your index finger, and gently wipe across the outside and inside of your baby’s upper and lower gums.
  • Brushing their first teeth. You can begin to brush your baby’s teeth with a grain-sized amount or a smear of fluoridated toothpaste. It is important to keep their first teeth in good health because they hold a place for incoming adult teeth. Begin using dental floss once a day, once your child’s teeth touch one another.
  • Your baby’s first dental visit. The American Dental Association recommends that your baby’s first dental visit be within six months of the appearance of their first tooth, but no later than their first birthday. During the visit, the dental team will provide you with proper dental care guidance for your child.
  • As your child grows, teach him/her to brush and floss. Remember to support them with their dental care routine. Help your child brush their teeth until they have demonstrated proper brushing skills. If your child is younger than six years old, make sure they use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and always spit it out rather than swallow.

Dental Hygiene for Good Oral Health and Whole Body Health

Positive dental hygiene habits can help you maintain a healthy mouth as you age. Growing evidence connects a healthy mouth with a healthy body. Research shows poor oral health may contribute to various health conditions, including respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Certain conditions, such as diabetes can reduce the body’s resistance to infections. This can place your gums at risk (Mayo Clinic).

Protect your oral health and your whole health by following these dental care tips:

  • Brush your teeth gently with a soft toothbrush and a fluoridated toothpaste, twice a day for two minutes. Brush your tongue to remove odor causing bacteria. Remember to replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if the bristles are frayed or after being sick.
  • Floss at least once per day.
  • If you wear dentures, rinse them thoroughly after meals.
  • Visit the dentist twice a year for a dental exam and teeth cleaning, or more frequent if recommended by a dental professional.
  • Limit sugary and acidic foods and beverages.
  • Avoid tobacco products and excessive alcohol consumption.

A Healthy Smile Before, During, and after Pregnancy

While you care for yourself and your baby, don’t forget about the health of your teeth and gums. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can increase the risk of gum disease which can affect your health and the health of your baby. Below are tips to help you maintain good dental hygiene throughout your pregnancy:

  • Stick to your daily dental hygiene routine. Brush at least twice a day, floss at least once a day, and use an antimicrobial mouth rinse.
  • Keep your dental checkup appointment(s):
    • If possible, try to make a dental appointment before getting pregnant. This can help you have your teeth cleaned and any oral health concern treated in advance.
    • Pregnancy can put you at an increased risk for pregnancy gingivitis, an oral health condition where the gums are tender and bleed easily. Routine dental care is safe and important. It can be done at any time during pregnancy.
    • A dental checkup after your new baby arrives can help you continue with your preventive dental care. This is also an opportunity to ask the dental professional about oral care for your infant.

The Dental Hygienist – Helping Patients Achieve the Best Dental Hygiene

You may think of a dental hygienist as the person who cleans your teeth. But a dental hygienist does more than that. As part of a dental team, the dental hygienist may also provide you with the following preventive dental care services:

  • A dental screening for oral health conditions such as gum disease.
  • Guidance on good dental habits such as brushing, flossing, and a dental-friendly diet.
  • Applying dental sealants and/or fluoride varnish to protect teeth.

A dental hygienist wants to help protect your oral health. Ask your hygienist any questions or concerns you may have about caring for your own or your family’s oral health. They will provide you with proper guidance and resources.

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