When your dentist (or mom) stresses the importance of brushing and flossing daily it’s not just for the sake of nagging. Consider the question posed by a recent USA Today article: What would happen if you ignored that advice and chucked your toothbrush for an entire year?
“Probably nothing good,” American Dental Association spokesman Matthew Messina told the newspaper. For starters, you’d develop cavities and gum disease, he said, both of which can be very painful and cause your teeth to fall out. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Your mouth is a hotbed for bacteria; 500 to 700 can live in there with most individuals harboring 250 to 300 at any given time, according to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health.
So not brushing can lead to more than having “dragon breath,” it can push your immune system into overdrive. Bacteria under the gum line with access to the bloodline can be particularly dangerous, and having a dirty mouth has been linked to a range of health problems including respiratory diseases, heart attacks and even MRSA infections. MRSA – or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – is a bacteria that is resistant to common antibiotics, making infections difficult to treat. MRSA blood infections can damage the lining of your heart and potentially be fatal.
Not to scare you, but that’s pretty good incentive to brush your teeth regularly. Speaking of which, here are a few tips from the American Dental Association on brushing properly.
· Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush. The size and shape of your brush should fit your mouth allowing you to reach all areas easily.
· Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
· Make sure to use an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste.
· Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
· Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes.
· Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
· To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.