By Dr. John Luther, Chief Dental Officer at DentaQuest
Did you know a Valentine’s Day kiss with your loved one is good for your oral health? A nice smooch will stimulate saliva, a natural cleaner for teeth that washes bacteria and food particles to help fight cavities.
As you get ready to pucker up, take these steps to be sure your breath is sweet:
1. Brush Up. Bad breath, or halitosis, can be embarrassing. The best way to prevent bad breath is to eliminate potential causes. Bacteria lingering in your mouth from food or infections can create odors and lead to decay. Brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes with fluoridated toothpaste, and daily flossing, is a good start. Also clean your tongue –it can retain bacteria. A gentle and thorough cleaning with a tongue scraper or toothbrush can remove lingering food particles.
2. Stick to Crunchy Produce. Foods play a role in lingering bad breath. Most people know they should avoid foods with strong smelling ingredients, like garlic or onion. But did you also know that oils from some cheeses and soft drinks are absorbed into your lungs and the smell is given off in your breath for a while? Foods such as apples or oranges contain helpful enzymes that naturally remove bacteria. Crunchy foods like carrots or celery help stimulate the flow of saliva which also helps get rid of odor causing bacteria. Snacking on parsley or mint leaves can also help freshen your breath.
3. Chew Xylitol Gum. Gum increases saliva production and helps neutralize acid; however, many gums contain sugar, which of course negates the healthy benefits. Chewing gum with xylitol, a naturally occurring sweetener, fixes this problem. In fact, studies have shown that because cavity-causing bacteria are passed from mothers to newborns, mothers who chew xylitol gum are less likely to transmit the harmful bacteria to their children, and cavities among these children are reduced by up to 70 percent.
4. Say “No” To Smoking. In case an increased risk of cancer and death is not enough reason to turn you off from smoking, here’s another: smoking causes bad breath, gum disease and tooth decay. That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends quitting and offers tips on how to quit at cdc.gov.
5. Check Your Medicine. Because the cause of halitosis can be a dry mouth, make sure to look through your medicine cabinet. A side-effect of some medications, such as antihistamines, tranquilizers, and various blood pressure medicines may be a decrease in the flow of saliva in children and adults. If dry mouth sounds familiar to you, talk to your dentist and physician. They may be able to suggest alternative medications or prescribe a medicine that helps your salivary glands work better.
So many solutions, yet we’ve only just started. Remember to maintain proper oral hygiene to make the most of out your smooch – and your overall oral health! Happy Valentine’s Day!