Ninety percent of all adults have had at least one cavity during their lifetime. Over half of people over thirty have had some form of gum disease. And, over one quarter of adults over 65 have only 8 teeth or fewer—with one in six senior adults having lost all their teeth.
These statistics are disturbing—and not just for the impact they show dental disease could have on your mouth. Unhealthy teeth and gums can affect your whole body with infection, malnutrition and the worsening of diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Good oral health truly supports overall health and well-being—and it's why we set aside every March 20th as World Oral Health Day. In recognition of this global emphasis on maintaining a healthy mouth, here are 4 things you can do to prevent dental disease and keep your teeth and gums in prime condition.
Practice oral hygiene. Less than five minutes a day—that's all it takes to perform the most important tasks you can undertake to promote oral health. Brushing and flossing daily removes dental plaque—the thin bacterial film on tooth surfaces most responsible for tooth decay and gum disease—so you can significantly lower your risk for dental disease.
Eat dental-friendly foods. A diet that's beneficial for your entire body is typically great for your mouth. It's not complicated, either. Major on "good" foods—dairy, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables—while minoring on or cutting out the "not so good"—processed foods and refined sugar. The latter, found in 77% of the more than 600,000 processed foods sold in grocery stores, is super food for harmful oral bacteria.
Quit tobacco. Smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to develop gum disease, and three times as likely to lose all their teeth. Tobacco also increases your risk for other mouth-related diseases, including oral cancer. Kicking the habit isn't just good for your heart and lungs—it's just as beneficial for your oral health.
See your dentist regularly. A professional dental cleaning rids your teeth of residual plaque missed during personal hygiene, particularly hardened plaque called tartar that's impossible to remove with brushing and flossing. And, it's more likely your dentist's trained eye and diagnostic tools will be able to identify and treat early dental disease, before it can cause extensive, permanent damage.
A healthy lifestyle is key to long-term well-being. Make sure part of what you do to stay healthy includes your mouth.