Ottawa, Ontario – The summer months are upon us once again and fun in the sun is just around the corner. But while you’re playing, don’t forget to maintain proper dental care or come fall, you may regret it.
“Summer is a time when we want to be carefree and we often indulge in treats such as popsicles, ice cream and the like,” says Dr. Pamela Li, who operates an Ottawa dental clinic that serves patients of all ages. “While we are having fun, we also have to remember to brush and floss properly so our oral health doesn’t deteriorate.”
It’s important that even when you’re on vacation, you brush twice a day and floss once a day. Be sure you change your toothbrush regularly, and always store it properly.
If you currently wear braces, maintaining a good oral care routine is very important. Don’t let the hard work your mouth is putting in now go to waste because you didn’t brush your teeth regularly. Also, if you’ve recently had your braces removed and wear a retainer, follow your dentist’s guidelines for the wearing the retainer. Even forgetting to wear it for a few days can alter the position of your teeth. The purpose of a retainer is to keep the teeth in their new locations until they are properly trained to “remember” those locations.
Another common issue that arises during summer months is tooth sensitivity. Eating ice cream and drinking cold, ice filled drinks can bring about tooth sensitivity, even in people who may have never experienced it before. Tooth sensitivity affects millions of people, so you aren’t alone if you wince in pain when sipping a cold glass of iced tea. Dr. Li offers the following tips if you are among this number:
- Take it easy on your teeth. Using a hard bristled tooth brush or brushing too hard can remove the protective layers of enamel. If the bristles of your toothbrush are completely flattened, or pointing in numerous directions, that’s a big sign you’re brushing too hard. This can then expose the sensitive areas of your teeth, making it painful to eat or drink very cold foods.
- Consider changing your brand of toothpaste. Some toothpastes, such as those that whiten, are more abrasive to remove stains. Consider switching to Sensodyne or another sensitive toothpaste that will help control the sensitivity.
- Limit the number of acidic foods and drinks you ingest. This is important because too much acid can lead to erosion of your tooth enamel.
“Tooth enamel is the strongest substance found in our bodies,” says Dr. Li, whose Ottawa dentistry office works with patients on preventative care. “It protects the teeth from the daily wear and tear involved in biting and chewing and the temperature extremes your teeth face each day when we eat and drink. The enamel guards against erosion, but over time, that enamel can wear down, leaving the dentin underneath susceptible to decay.”
So what causes enamel erosion? There are several things dental patients should be aware of.
Drinking too many soft drinks or fruit drinks is a major area of concern. Bacteria thrive on sugars, and then produce high acid levels that eat away the enamel.
Sour foods and candies are also highly acidic, leading to erosion of enamel. During the summer months, we often turn to drinks such as lemonade to cool us off. But the combined sugars and acids can actually be harming our teeth.
Dry mouth can adversely affect our teeth, as well. Saliva works to wash away the harmful bacteria and neutralizes acids by washing them away. A lack of saliva means these harmful things stay on our teeth longer.
To prevent enamel erosion, cut down on the acidic foods and drinks in your diet. Drink fewer carbonated beverages and eat fewer citrus fruits. Rinse your mouth right after eating or drinking highly acidic items. Switch to drinking through a straw so the acid can bypass your teeth. Drink milk to neutralize the acids or chew sugar-free gum that contains xylitol. Drink plenty of water and wait at least an hour to brush teeth after ingesting anything with high acidity.
Keeping these tips in mind will ensure a healthy summer and keep you out of the dentist’s chair come the cooler months. And remember, if you have regularly scheduled maintenance appointments set up for the summer, don’t skip those. If you have any concerns with your oral health, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
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