Writer Charles Wheelan gained some notoriety in recent weeks with his shoot-from-the-hip essay, “10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You,” which appeared in The Wall Street Journal. Some of it is decent advice for high school and college grads (“Marry someone smarter than you”), but FocusedCareDental.com of Encino, Calif., has a few amendments to offer.
Statistics show that more than one in four adults will lose ALL their permanent teeth by the time they are 74 years old. I repeat: ALL THEIR TEETH! And according to the Surgeon General, another 100 million people are missing between 11 and 15 adult teeth by that age!
Young people, imagine sporting that look on Facebook. Imagine the social stigma, the missed meals, the discomfort, and the financial hit that all those missing teeth will elicit! Not good, folks. Not good at all.
Am I getting worked up? Yes. Most dental damage is avoidable! It just takes a few lifestyle modifications to thwart cavities, gum disease and oral injury. Please consider my amendments to Mr. Wheelan’s advice list.
Dr. Allan Melnick’s 10Toothy Tips
(Or “10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You About Teeth”)
- Floss or Loss. Flossing is crucial. It removes debris and helps scrape off plaque that can lead to stinky breath, periodontitis, tooth loss, and maybe even diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
- Don’t Use Your Teeth as Tools. Your teeth are not designed to open bottles, trim your nails, tear open packages or crack nuts. Chips and cracks in your teeth can lead to pain, infection, decay and tooth loss. Stop it. Stop it now.
- Quit Smoking. Yellow teeth. Gum disease. Oral cancer. Enough said.
- Wait an Hour to Brush After Eating Acidic Foods. Acidic beverages and food such as orange juice and tomatoes have a pH that temporarily softens tooth enamel. Swish with water after eating and give your teeth 60 minutes to harden up before brushing – or risk unnecessary wear and tear. This is not a wives tale.
- Minimize Consumption of Soft Drinks. Whether diet or high octane, sodas contain citric acid that causes erosion of tooth enamel. Sports drinks and wine can do the same thing. Use a straw, drink a water chaser, or kick the habit entirely.
- Brush Softly, Slow and Systematically. You’ll be less apt to jab your gums if you slow down. It’s not a race. Use a soft-bristled brush and be methodical. It’s the best way to remove food particles and reduce oral bacteria. Take about two minutes, then gargle and swish with mouthwash. You’re done.
- See a Dentist and Hygienist Regularly. Just because nothing hurts, doesn’t mean there aren’t underlying problems. Tartar buildup and dry mouth may lead to gum inflammation, infection, bad breath, and eventual tooth loss. Wayward wisdom teeth can cause overcrowding and even penetrate sinus cavities. Hidden decay may harm roots of teeth, and a bad bite may permanently damage the TMJ. Treat dental problems early to minimize long-term risks.
- Wear a Mouth Guard. It safeguards against tooth damage, injury of oral soft tissues, concussions, and shortening of teeth from grinding which ages the smile.
- Abstain from Illegal Drug Use. Meth mouth is not pretty. Drugs are a fast train to ruined teeth, ruined looks, ruined relationships, and ruined health. Just don’t.
- Snackers Beware. Those who snack throughout the day, bathe their teeth in a constant slurry of sugar and acid. Not only are you at risk of gaining weight, but your smile is on borrowed time. Your gums and enamel won’t be able to withstand the constant assault, and gum disease, decay and tooth loss are inevitable. If you give in to a snack attack, rinse your mouth with water, chew sugarless gum or brush afterward. Travel brushes are small and easy to tuck into a purse, a pocket or a drawer in your office desk.
I could go on, but I won’t. You decide: No teeth at 74? Or a little lifestyle tweaking? Call (818) 385-3681 to make a dental appointment, and I promise that there will be no scolding, lectures or guilt trips. I just want you to have a great smile that you can keep your whole life. Class dismissed.
Best regards, Dr. Melnick
Tip of the Day: A bottled water junkie? Most bottled water contains little or no fluoride. Drink tap water once in a while to take advantage of fluoridated community water supplies, and use toothpaste with fluoride. It protects against tooth decay.