Being physically fit is important for Citizen-Soldiers. But maintaining a healthy mouth helps you stay medically ready, too. Here are 10 things you can do to stay on top of your dental game.
1. Get Your Annual Dental Exam
You are required to see a dentist once a year as a Soldier, and with good reason! Not only does it keep you compliant with Army regs, but also helps prevent oral disease and identifies any dental problems you might have and how to treat them.
2. Brush Twice a Day
Brushing your teeth regularly can guard against cavities and other dental problems. Check out this guide to figure out what toothbrush you should use.
3. Floss Every Day
It can be hard to get into the habit of flossing daily, but it is important to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Flossing helps remove food debris and plaque that can cause tooth decay and gum disease. You don’t have to wait until right before bedtime to floss—getting your head to the pillow will win out over flossing most every night! Try instead to keep floss in the kitchen and use it right after dinner. Or tie it to the remote control and use it while you watch TV.
4. Stop Using Tobacco
Tobacco not only risks your overall health, but can affect your mouth, too. Smoking and chewing tobacco causes bad breath and stained teeth. It can also lead to gum disease and more serious health concerns like cancer. There are several options to help you kick the habit.
5. Use a Mouth Guard
A mouth guard will help keep your pearly whites intact. It can help you stop grinding your teeth, may help reduce jaw problems, and can protect your mouth during physical activity. There are different types of mouth guards:
- Sleep mouth guards – prevent tooth wear and cracking caused by nighttime grinding.
- Sports mouth guards – protect you during physical activities.
- Custom fit mouth guards – can be made at your dental office or you can get semi-custom (boil and bite) ones at most stores.
6. Drink Water Often
It’s important to keep your mouth hydrated. By drinking water, you keep your saliva glands healthy. Saliva helps wash away food from your teeth and gums, prevents cavities by neutralizing harmful acids and reducing bacteria, and keeps the surface of your teeth strong.
7. Limit Sugar Intake
Treating yourself to dessert or having a sugary snack isn’t bad for you—as long as you don’t overdo it. But eating sugary foods too often can cause health problems, including tooth decay. If you chew gum, make sure it is sugar-free. Also, be careful about sucking on sugary cough drops, mints, or candies, especially at bedtime. If you have a sugary treat, be sure to rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash afterwards to remove any sticky residue.
8. Use a Straw When Drinking Sugary Drinks
Who knew straws make for good oral hygiene? Drinking with a straw helps keep your teeth from taking a bath in sugar.
9. Ask About Your Medicines
Some medicines you take could have side effects that affect your teeth. For example, more than 500 over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause dry mouth. Dry mouths can lead to more cavities. Check with your pharmacist about your medication’s potential side effects and tell your dentist if you’re experiencing unusual changes in your mouth.
10. Eat a Healthy Diet
A well-balanced diet is not only good for your overall health, but it also helps keep your mouth healthy. Minerals like calcium and fluoride help support healthy teeth, gums, and bones. Calcium is found in milk, green leafy veggies, cheese, and nuts. Fluoride is prevalent in most water systems, and is also found in fruits, veggies, and tea.
Guarding your mouth is easy once you know what to do!
- Use the American Dental Association’s Dental Symptom Checker to help you identify potential oral health problems.
- Find a dentist in your area.