January 15, 2013

Making Our Smiles Just A Little Bit Happier

Although health is on the top of my list of important things I do, I often forget about the importance of dental health. I floss. I brush. I gurgle. I do all three on a daily basis. However, I forget to go to the dentist and get a teeth cleaning and check up. Every year, I make it to the doctor for a yearly physical and to the eye doctor for an eye exam (well, really I do the latter every couple of years, but whatever.), but somehow I do not make it to the dentist.

I am not alone in this. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), 48.7% of American adults go to the dentist yearly, which means that 51.3% do not. That may not be a devastating ratio, but it is still one worthy of attention. The number one reason the ADA found that people did not go to the dentist: cost. Thirty-four percent of American adults said that the dentist costs too much. Cost was followed by 26% of adults who had a bad experience, and the last reason people did not go to the dentist was that they did not feel it necessary.

None of those were my reason. I just did not remember to go. I did not have any issues, so it fell to the bottom of my list of things to do. I am positive I am not the only American adult who forgot.

I actually really like going to the dentist. I like the way a teeth cleaning feels during and after. I like the feeling that I have taken care of my mouth and teeth. I just do not remember to do it.

Yet dental health is crucial to overall health. In order to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, we must all practice basic dental care. At the least we need to brush and floss regularly and eat a mouth-healthy diet. WebMD notes that brushing at least two times a day is good although three times is ideal. The best times to brush are after we eat so that foods do not sit on our teeth and eat away at the enamel.

redOrbit provides further good advice about brushing our teeth. First, we should brush for at least three to four minutes in order to scrape all the food and germs. Furthermore, we should brush in a pattern and make sure to brush the hard-to-reach areas as well like the molars and tongue. We also should use a soft-bristled, angled toothbrush to ensure we reach all areas of our mouth. Finally, a toothpaste with fluoride is necessary to combat tooth decay and gum disease.

In addition to proper and regular brushings, we should also make sure to floss daily. Flossing helps to get the food and germs that a toothbrush cannot get to. Sure, the first time we floss, it hurts and may even cause our mouths to bleed a bit, but soon enough our gums and teeth will adjust and flossing will feel good. Daily flossing is necessary to dental health.

WebMD further reports that regular brushing and flossing helps not only to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, but they also help make it possible for teeth to last a lifetime, prevent bad breath, minimize dental check-ups, keep teeth white, and improve our overall health. But we also need to go to the dentist for a check-up at least once a year.

Furthermore, we need to eat healthier diets by avoiding foods that assist in tooth decay (namely refined sugars). Mouth Healthy, a website developed by the ADA for consumers, states that studies show that people who have lost teeth or wear dentures don’t eat as many fruits or vegetables and tend to have less nutritious diets overall.

Dental health is just as important as physical and mental health, so let’s start 2013 off right and get into our dentists. Let’s commit to our dental health in the same we are committing to our other health issues. A healthy and pretty smile will be the result, and don’t we all want that?

Image Credit: Elena Kharichkina / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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