5 Foods to Try for a Healthier Smile

food for a healthier smile

You can’t simply eat your way to a healthier smile (unfortunately), but what you put into your body does have an impact on oral health. You may be surprised to learn that some of the best foods for your teeth and gums are also pretty darn tasty! Here are five foods to try if you want a healthier smile.

Greens

No surprise here – leafy greens are the image of healthy eating, to the chagrin of sweet tooths everywhere. But they’re popular for a reason. Kale, spinach, cabbage, and other so-called “rabbit foods” are full of calcium, an essential nutrient in building your teeth’s enamel, which prevents sensitive teeth.

If you’re not a salad fan, there are subtler ways of sneaking leafy greens into your diet, like putting them in a smoothie. You could also use them as a pizza topping – which isn’t altogether bad for you, as you’ll see in the next point.

Cheese

Cheese lovers are often dismayed to find this gooey goodness on the list of foods to avoid. But cheese offers benefits to oral health, and not just because it contains enamel-building calcium. Eating cheese raises the pH in your mouth, which helps prevent the effects of acids that cause tooth decay! So if you’re planning to indulge in something sweet, it’s not altogether a bad idea to top it off with a bite of cheese.

Yogurt

Ice-cream’s healthier cousin offers a welcome protein and calcium boost. Yogurt with active bacteria cultures (marketed as probiotics) adds ‘good’ bacteria to your mouth, which can take the place of the ‘bad’ bacteria that’ll give you cavities. However, be warned: much of the yogurt you’ll find on grocery store shelves is chock-full of sugar, which won’t go your mouth any good. In terms of health benefits, a low-fat, sugar-free yogurt is the snack of choice.

Almonds

Yes, these tasty little nuts can get stuck between your teeth. However, if you’ve got a craving for chocolate, almonds are a far better alternative for your oral health. They’re low in sugar, high in calcium, and packed with protein. Just remember to floss after enjoying a handful.

Apples

Fruits like apples contain natural sugars. While they obviously contain less sugar than cake and candy, the sugar they do contain is no better for your teeth than the others. However, apples contain a lot of water, and chewing the fruit’s fibrous flesh stimulates saliva in your mouth, which helps to wash away any remaining sugars from your teeth. Finishing off your lunch with a few apple slices can actually help keep your teeth clean!

 

What’s the Best Part of Being a Dentist?

Dentists love being their own boss.
Dentists love being their own boss.

When it comes to careers, dentistry gets kind of a bad rap. Casual observers tend to focus on the low points of the job: the long hours, the fatigue, and, of course, the mess. But every job has its downsides, and if you’re passionate about what you do, working in a dental office is highly rewarding work.

The Joys of Dentistry

To start, dental practitioners do a lot of good for the world. They spend their days helping others improve their health, relieve pain, and become more confident in their lives. They get to meet folks from all levels of society and become part of the community. Dentists literally work hands-on to make people feel better, and they can see the results of their work in each patient’s smile.

Dianne Glasscoe sums it up well in this article: “The joy of changing a person’s life by creating a beautiful, healthy smile is one of the intangible rewards of being a dentist that can’t be measured.”

The opportunity to help people isn’t dentistry’s only draw. There’s also the work environment. Practicing dentists work as part of a team that includes dental hygienists, office staff, and fellow practitioners. It’s also a career with stability and good pay.

But the best part of the job?

Being Your Own Boss

According to this year’s Annual Practice Survey, it’s the ability to be your own boss. 47% of dentists who completed the survey said this was the most satisfying part of the job.

You choose which days you work, make your own hours, and decide how many patients to see each day. You have the freedom to do some procedures and refer other out. You select your own tools and materials. And you can determine, based on your own experiences, what your services are worth.

As Roger Levin wrote for Dentistry IQ, “There’s something to be said for working for yourself. You call the shots, you set the hours, and you reap the rewards.”

That’s not to say the job is easy. Running your own business always comes with challenges, and being your own boss takes a great deal of discipline and perseverance. But if you do it right, you can set yourself up for a lifelong, rewarding career.

How Dental Hygienists Can Help Patients With Dementia

More hygienists are coming into contact with patients who have dementia.
More hygienists are coming into contact with patients who have dementia.

With our aging population, it will soon be common for dental hygienists to encounter patients who suffer from a type of dementia. The most prevalent form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, currently affects over 5.2 million Americans who are 65 or older.

As the disease progresses, it can become increasingly difficult to provide dental care. Caregivers, hygienists, and dentists must work together to establish a treatment plan that suits each individual patient’s needs.

 

Why Dental Care is Important for Dementia Patients

When someone receives a dementia diagnosis, their oral health tends to take a back seat as the person and their family focuses on more pressing health issues. However, it’s important that a person with the disease continues to receive regular dental care, as the effects of dementia can cause new problems to develop and exacerbate existing dental issues.

One of the major components of the disease is short-term memory loss. A person who suffers from dementia may forget to brush their teeth or lose sight of why it’s important. In the middle to late stages of the disease, they may lose the ability to brush or loss their teeth without help. This can result in gum disease and tooth decay from oral neglect, which causes discomfort and puts the person at risk of infection.

Sometimes, the medications prescribed to a person with dementia can increase the potential for dental issues. Many patients use antidepressants and sedatives, which both have dry mouth as a side effect. The lack of saliva can lead to a build-up of plaque, increasing the risk of dental decay and gum disease. Syrup-based medications, like lactulose, can cause tooth decay due to the high sugar content.

Many older people also wear dentures, which accumulates plaque build up quickly.

Maintaining good oral health is an important part of a patient’s overall health. Having healthy gums and teeth makes it easier for a person to eat and digest food, which reduces the risk of malnutrition and improves their quality of life overall.

 

How Dental Hygienists Can Help

  • Understand the condition. There are several types and degrees of dementia, and different patients are living at different levels and progressions of the disease. If possible, find out about the patient’s condition ahead of time and learn what you can about their cognitive state.
  • Develop a good rapport with the patient. Before the appointment, take time to connect with the person (and their caregiver, if applicable) to put them at ease. This will help to avoid misinterpretations.
  • Be patient. Those with moderate to severe dementia may have a limited ability to follow instructions or communicate their needs. Don’t take it personally if you have to repeat yourself. It helps to break instructions down into small, easy steps (sit down, lean back, open your mouth, say “ah.”)
  • Keep constant communication. Short-term memory loss is a common feature of dementia. Be sure to reassure the patient and let them know what’s going on throughout the appointment.
  • Write it down. Whether the patient arrives with a caregiver or not, it’s important to write down your instructions and recommendations in case they forget.

The Link Between Dental Health and Mental Wellness

Studies show a clinical connection between a person's oral health and general well-being.
Studies show a clinical connection between a person’s oral health and general well-being.

There’s more to your smile than meets the eye.

It’s long been recognized that oral hygiene plays an important role in your overall health. Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly helps to prevent cavities, tooth decay, gum disease, and infections.

Now, there is a growing body of evidence that healthy teeth contribute to mental health and well-being as well.

A by the University of Manchester’s School of Dentistry confirmed the first clinical link between teeth and quality of life. Researchers surveyed adults with full or partial dentures and found the patients were more prone to mild forms of stress than people with natural teeth or dental implants. Those with dentures were also more likely to lack confidence in their appearance.

In another study by University College London, nearly one in three adults felt an improved smile would improve their confidence and help them overcome embarrassment about how they look. 46% of participants also believed an attractive smile was key to a better appearance.

For better or for worse, society puts a lot of stock in the appearance of your smile. We tend to associate a spotless, white smile with beauty and good health. And as social scientist Malcom Gladwell observed in his New Yorker piece, teeth have also become as a sign of social status. Since dental care is not covered by universal health care in either Canada or the United States, many people must pay for trips to the dentist out-of-pocket. Perfect teeth are a sign of wealth; bad teeth imply you lack the means or the knowledge to care for your oral health.

“Anxiety about their appearance means people quite literally cannot grin and bear it,” wrote Dr. Andrew McCance, a researcher in the UCL study. “Their embarrassment with their facial appearance has hampered their careers or stopped them forming relationships.”

No wonder people feel self-conscious about their smile.

It’s not to say that access to dental care would instantly boost a person’s confidence. Not everyone with bad teeth has poor self esteem, of course, and even those with a perfect smile still suffer from stress and low self-esteem. But there is clearly a link between teeth and mental wellness.

For many people, better oral health would be a big step in improving their overall health and wellness. These findings underline the importance of promoting good oral hygiene and providing access to dental care.