Courtney Dickson, Wellness Columnist Ω
Going to the dentist sucks. They shove their giant hands in your mouth for an hour, they prod around your gums until you bleed (and then blame you for poor flossing habits), they tell you (or at least they tell me) that the $5,000 your parents spent on braces was a waste because your teeth are still not perfect. And then they make you pay hundreds of dollars that you might have.
Unfortunately, visiting the dentist is a necessary evil.
Cavities and gum disease have been linked to other systemic conditions: heart disease, diabetes and oral cancer are just a few of the more serious issues that have been linked to not taking care of your mouth. Even a poor memory might result from poor oral health, according to a study at the University of Kentucky.
It can be difficult to make it to the dentist regularly, as students are constantly on the move and have busy schedules that sometimes can’t accommodate a dentist’s office hours. There are some things we can do to maintain oral hygiene in-between our sometimes sporadic visits to the dentist.
(1) Stop smoking. If not because it causes a truckload of chronic illnesses, then because it just destroys your mouth. Try searching Google for “smoker mouth” – that should give you an idea of what the future may hold.
(2) Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes with the right toothbrush. When you walk into the drug store, there are about 784 toothbrushes to choose from – how do you choose? Next time you do see a dentist, ask about which bristles are appropriate for your teeth. The smaller the head (the part with the bristles) of the toothbrush, the easier it is to get into smaller areas that can be tough to clean. Pay attention to the handle on the brush you choose. Seems a little tedious, but a comfortable grip on a toothbrush can make a world of difference when you’re standing in front of the mirror brushing for two minutes. If you have your own checklist of what you’re looking for in a toothbrush, the task of choosing one doesn’t seem so overwhelming.
(3) Floss once a day. Plaque build-up between teeth can’t be eliminated from brushing alone. Full disclosure: I floss about once a month, usually after eating popcorn.
(4) Rinse your mouth once or twice a day with anti-microbial mouthwash. Most mouthwash is anti-microbial, but you can get more effective (and of course, more expensive) formulas from the dentist and pharmacy. This helps get rid of plaque in spots in our mouths that are hard to access, especially for those of us who don’t floss as often as we should.
(5) Look into the side effects of any medications you are taking, and ask your doctor about the relationship that has with your oral health. For example, some birth control medications can increase your risk of gum disease.
Simply taking care of your oral health on your own doesn’t mean you can excuse yourself from dental check-ups, but if you can’t find the time or money to go see a professional, it’s something. It’d be a shame for the primary cause of a chronic ailment to be something as simple as not brushing your teeth often enough. Take care of your teeth, and don’t eat too much candy this weekend.