Health Team

Proper Tooth Care Important Part of Healthier New Year

Posted January 4, 2007 5:17 p.m. EST
Updated January 4, 2007 7:10 p.m. EST

New Year's resolutions usually focus on typical health issues such as getting fit or losing weight. But what about healthy teeth?

Dentists say that people often don't appreciate their teeth until they're gone. There are simple things that people can resolve to do this year to keep their teeth well into their golden years.

Cavities, gum disease and even bad breath have one root cause; bacteria. Vickie Parrish Overman, a clinical associate professor with UNC Dental Hygiene Programs, said people might need to use several weapons, including a tongue scraper.

"One of the reasons why it's very important is because the bacteria builds up on your tongue and it can be responsible for things such as bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth," Parrish Overman said.

UNC dentist Dr. Tony Molina said he preaches the basics; brushing and flossing.

“People always tell me, 'Oh, I brush two or three times a day,' and really, the most important thing is that you brush effectively once a day," Molina said.

Molina said he recommends a soft bristle brush and a circular motion to get the bristle between the teeth, and rotating the brush rather than moving it side-to-side.

Some people have trouble manipulating a standard brush. For them, Molina said he recommends buying an electric or battery-powered toothbrush. He said a complete brushing job will take at least two minutes -- one minute on each arch.

With floss, Molina said to wrap it around the tooth, "and gently scrape up and down, going just below the gum line."

Brushing, flossing and using a mouth rinse all fight bacteria, but not many people think to have those items in their desk after lunch at work.

"One of the things you can do if you don't have a toothbrush with you is to be sure to rinse your mouth with water after you eat a snack or meal," Parrish Overman said.

On top of good personal dental care, experts recommend visiting a dentist twice a year.