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A healthy smile can lead to a healthy life

Keeping your teeth clean and healthy ensures much more than just a beautiful smile, it can also attribute to your well-being.

“There’s a link between bacteria in your mouth and your overall health,” said Marley Zetter, a Dental Hygienist at Jessamine Family Dentistry in Nicholasville.

Zetter said bacteria in your mouth can travel throughout the bloodstream and end up in many areas that can cause problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize the health of their mouth can affect their entire body,” Zetter said.

There are several ways to ensure those pearly whites stay healthy.

Dentist Pat Disponett suggests brushing a minimum of two times a day, once in the morning and right before you go to bed.

When we sleep, we produce less saliva to wash the bacteria off our teeth, causing it to build up more overnight, Disponett said. 

Flossing at least once a day is also recommended. Though the term “flossing” does imply dental floss, there are many other ways to clean in between teeth — also known as interdental cleaning. Devices such as dental picks, pre-threaded flossers, tiny brushes that reach between the teeth or wooden plaque removers can be used. 

Water flossers can also be used, and are a good option for those who have trouble flossing by hand or have dental work that makes flossing difficult such as braces, according to the American Dental Association.

Mouthwash is another option to keep teeth clean and healthy.

Zetter said it is best for patients who have gingivitis — a form of gum disease that causes inflammation in the gums.

Mouthwash does freshen breath and help swelling gums, but it does not take care of plaque, tartar or bacteria, so it should be accompanied by brushing.

Though keeping your teeth bright and white is important, keeping your tongue clean is also key to overall oral health.

“The tongue harbors a lot of that bacteria,” Zetter said.

So while you’re brushing your teeth, give your tongue some attention too.

Eating habits can also affect oral health. 

“Eating healthier makes a huge difference,” Disponett said.

He suggested avoiding sticky foods right before bed and decreased consumption of surgery drinks such as soda.

If one must have a soda, it’s best to drink it through a straw to help avoid or bypass the teeth.

Disponett also recommended brushing after drinking sodas and eating or at least rinsing with water.

Any time you eat or drink, it causes the mouth to become acidic for about an hour.

“That acidic environment is what the bacteria thrives off of,” Zetter said.

One of the greatest ways to ensure your oral health is the best it can be is by paying a visit twice a year to someone who cares about it just as much as you do, your dentist.