Don’t Brush It Off: This Self-Improvement Month, Improve Your Brushing Technique

self-improvement-a2September has been designated National Self-Improvement Month. And though the designation has proven surprisingly difficult to substantiate — the National Day Calendar listed its history as “To Be Researched” — a little self-improvement never hurt.

In fact, you might expect the exact opposite.

When it comes to dental hygiene, brushing and flossing are some of the most important routines for your smile, yet they could possibly use a little improvement.

Why You Need to Brush and Floss

Brushing and flossing can remove plaque, tartar and stains. These three culprits can cause problems of all sorts:

  1. Cavities
  2. Gum disease, like gingivitis or periodontitis
  3. Weakened tooth enamel, making teeth more susceptible to chips or cracks

Conditions like these can wreak havoc on your smile. But the issues don’t stop there.

In fact, here’s a saying worth remembering:

You can’t spell overall without oral.

As in, oral health directly affects overall wellness.

Bad oral health doesn’t just put you at risk for cavities, gum disease, and weakened tooth enamel; it can increase risks for serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

The solution, of course, is brushing and flossing, but only when done so properly. There are a few improper ways of going about them:

Three Wrong Ways to Brush

  1. Brushing with force. Brushing too hard might make you feel like you’re getting your teeth extra clean, but your teeth won’t be thanking you. Using too much force can lead to tooth abrasion, little notches in the teeth near the gums.
  2. Starting in the same place every time. Usually, when something is routine, the tendency is to start in the exact same place every single time. For brushing, this isn’t necessarily the best technique. It takes two minutes to brush your teeth. When you start, the first tooth has your full attention. But by the time you’ve reached 1:45, you might be thinking about that board meeting you have in an hour. For more evenly-cleaned teeth, consider a new first tooth each time you brush.
  3. Leaving your toothbrush on a bathroom sink or counter. This isn’t really a brushing technique, but it can defeat an otherwise perfect routine. Your bathroom isn’t the exactly the cleanest room in your house — to avoid getting too “potty” mouthed about it — so your toothbrush is susceptible to germs if you park it there. Should you keep your toothbrush in the bathroom, at least put it in a holder where it can air-dry, and where the bristles won’t touch the germy sink or counter. Pro-tip: If you’re on vacation and using a travel bag, don’t store the toothbrush while it’s damp, as bacteria can grow on a moist toothbrush.

Two Wrong Ways to Floss

  1. Flossing too fast. Save for not flossing at all, rushed flossing may be a worst practice, as one up-and-down between your teeth might miss some food particles and won’t get under the gumline as effectively.
  2. Stopping at the sight of blood. If your gums start to bleed, it’s probably due to inflammation from bacteria that’s gotten into them. If you stop at the sight of blood, the bacteria wins, and the inflammation could grow worse.

At this point, it may feel like there’s a whole lot wrong with the world: diseases that want to rob you of your wellness, and wrong techniques that could prevent you from fighting them.

But September is self-improvement month, and there’s love at the end of the day. Here’s how you can improve your brushing and flossing techniques.

Six Steps for Better Brushing

  1. Place your toothbrush bristles at a 45-degree angle to the gumline
  2. Use just enough pressure to feel bristles against your gums and between teeth. Don’t squish the bristles
  3. Brush all inner and outer tooth surfaces several times, using short, circular strokes. Be sure to brush along the gumline as well
  4. Brush chewing surfaces straight on. Clean the inside surfaces of front teeth by tilting the brush vertically and making up-and-down strokes with the front of the brush
  5. Clean only one or two teeth at a time
  6. Brush your tongue, as oral bacteria can remain in taste buds

Five Steps for Flossing

  1. Start with an 18-inch strand of floss. Wind most of it around one of your middle fingers and the rest around the same finger on your other hand
  2. Tighten floss with about an inch of floss between your hands. Glide floss between teeth with a gentle sawing motion
  3. Curve it into a C against your tooth
  4. Hold the floss against each tooth, gently scraping the tooth’s side while moving the floss away from the gum. Repeat on all teeth. Don’t forget the back ones
  5. Rinse to remove any loosened plaque and food particles

For #SelfImprovementMonth this September, we’re brushing up on our brushing and flossing technique. What have you been doing to improve yourself?

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This Healthy Aging Month, Keep Your Smile Youthful

oral-health-aging-blogWhen you smile, you add years to your life.

At least according to research conducted in 2010 at Wayne University, which says people who smile genuinely and have more laughter lines generally have better long-term health.

Unfortunately, getting older can come with complications that interrupt a healthy oral routine.

Have These Complications Compromised Your Healthy Routine?

Three complications you have or will likely encounter as you get older, along with how they might affect your routine, include:

  1. You have to take new medications. The older you get, the more likely your doctor will prescribe you some sort of medication. But many prescription drugs can dry out the mouth. Because saliva helps to combat harmful germs, this can put you at risk of tooth decay.
  2. Your hands aren’t as mobile as they used to be. With older age comes an increased risk of broken down cartilage tissue, otherwise known as arthritis. In fact, almost half of adults 65 or older have arthritis. This can make important routine tasks, like flossing, difficult.
  3. You might need partial dentures. When it comes to partial dentures —removable replacement teeth attached to a metal framework and held in place by metal clasps — partial dentures have many advantages: They can keep teeth in place, they can assist with speaking and chewing, and they can improve your smile. But they can also be a breeding ground for plaque, as plaque can build up around the metal clasps.

It’s true — all three of these are a part of getting older. But you don’t have to let them get in your way of good oral hygiene. Here’s what you can do.

Six Solutions to Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene at an Older Age

  1. Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated can rinse away food particles that have stuck around, and ensure proper saliva production. If you’re on several types of medication, you’ll want to keep the latter in mind, as the medications might dry out your mouth. Pro-tip: When you drink water, try to drink tap water. Tap water contains fluoride, which strengthens enamel and can protect your teeth against plaque and other malignant bacteria.
  2. Eat healthy. Cut sugar and white flour from your diet. Replace these with fruits and vegetables like pears, apples, carrots and celery, which can stimulate the gums or at least prevent them from receding. Foods rich in protein like cheese and nuts can restore proper pH levels in your mouth.
  3. Brush twice a day. This is something everybody should do, regardless of age. But it might have a more noticeable impact on you, especially if you wear partial dentures. With partial dentures, the remaining teeth near the clasps are especially susceptible to plaque. Give them some extra attention when you brush.
  4. Floss daily. Again, this is something everybody should do. If wrapping floss around your fingers proves too difficult, consider a Y- or U-shaped floss holder — a pre-threaded device you can use for farther reach and easier maneuverability.
  5. Take proper care of dentures. Rinse food particles from dentures, then brush them with a denture brush. Because dentures are made with acrylic plastic or porcelain, they are susceptible to scratches. Denture brushes have softer bristles, so they can prevent scratches. Brushing dentures regularly can prevent them from becoming stained, thus giving you a more attractive smile.
  6. Visit your dentist. Schedule at least two checkups a year with your dentist. Communicate the kinds of medication you are taking, and any issues with your gums and teeth.

September is healthy aging month. And while you’re never too old to find a new career, sport, passion or hobby, getting older can come with complications that might demand more of you from your healthy oral routines. But that’s no reason to stop practicing good oral hygiene. No matter your age, give people a smile that shines!

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What to expect during an eye exam

eye-exam-37066978Have you been putting off getting an eye exam? August is National Eye Exam Month, making it the perfect time to take charge of your vision health.

Even if your vision seems fine to you, eye exams can identify potential problems and serious threats, like glaucoma and cataracts, before they get out of hand.

During a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor will exam both the inside and outside of your eyes through a series of tests.

Sharpness and clarity
Visual acuity tests measure the sharpness and clarity of your vision. The doctor will test how well you can see objects, from a distance and up close, by having you identify the smallest line of letters you can read clearly on an eye chart.

Cover test
How well your eyes work together is measured using the cover test. The doctor will have you stare at a distant object in the room while having you cover each eye alternately. You’ll repeat the test focusing on an object close to you. The doctor uses these tests to assess whether the uncovered eye must move to focus on the target.

Ocular mobility
To evaluate how well your eyes can follow a moving object and move between two separate objects, your doctor will conduct two tests. The doctor will have you follow the movement of a small light or other target with just your eyes. You’ll then be asked to focus on one object and move your eyes to another to test how well your eyes move between the two objects.

Retinoscopy
Early on in your examination, the doctor measures the eyes’ refraction using a retinoscope. The doctor shines a beam of light in the eye, then places a series of lenses in front of the eye, and observes the reflection off the retina. The way the light reflects determines if you can see clearly or if you are farsighted, nearsighted or have astigmatism. This test provides the doctor with an estimate of your glasses or contact lense prescription.

Refraction
The doctor will use an instrument known as a phoropter to develop your final vision prescription. The phoropter is put in front of your eyes, and the doctor shows you a series of lenses. You can identify the ones that make your vision the sharpest.

Eye pressure
Two tests can be used to check the fluid pressure of the eyes to see if it is in normal range: the “puff test,” or an applanation tonometer test. During the “puff test” the doctor uses a non-contact tonometer (NCT) to gently push a puff of air onto the eye. Or the doctor may put numbing drops in the eyes and touch the surface of each eye with an applanation tonometer.

These tests can help identify glaucoma, a pressure buildup in the eye, which can damage the optic nerve over time and cause vision loss.

Pupil dilation
The last step in a comprehensive eye exam is to dilate the pupil. In this test, known as the dilated fundus exam, eye drops are put into the eyes to increase the size of the pupil. The doctor uses a slit lamp and biomicroscope to examine the internal areas of the eye, including the optic nerve, blood vessels, retina, vitreous and macula. Pupils may remain dilated for three to four hours after this test.

It typically takes 30 minutes to an hour to complete a comprehensive eye exam. Your doctor may also offer you optional tests, such as photographing the eye, which may not be covered by your insurance.

After the exam, your doctor will discuss with you any corrective measures you may need and work with you to choose the method that best fits your lifestyle. Whether you need corrective measures or not, the doctor will recommend a date for your next exam.

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National Fresh Breath Day: Tips to Freshen Your Breath

National-Fresh-Breath-Day_87681877_900That clean, fresh feeling your mouth has after you brush your teeth in the morning helps get your day started and can give you a boost of confidence. But as the day wears on, your breath may take a nose dive.

To mark National Fresh Breath Day, we’ve identified some potential causes of bad breath and ways that you can maintain clean, fresh breath.

Bad breath can be caused by:

  • Foods: Eating garlic, onions and spicy dishes can not only lead to strong odors lingering in your mouth, but after these foods are digested, their chemicals travel through the bloodstream to the lungs where you breathe them out.
  • Poor oral hygiene: Not brushing and flossing enough can lead to plaque and bacteria build up in your mouth resulting in cavities, gum disease and infections.
  • Dry mouth: Saliva helps clean your mouth naturally. When your mouth is dry and not producing enough saliva, food particles and bacteria remain in your mouth causing bad breath.
  • Health issues: Diseases such as diabetes, bronchitis, acid reflex, ulcers, cancers and kidney or liver disease can give off strong odors that can be detected in the mouth.
  • Tobacco: Smoking and chewing tobacco cause their own unpleasant odors. Using tobacco can also lead to gum disease, which is another source of bad breath.

You can freshen your breath by:

  • Brushing your teeth and tongue at least twice a day and flossing at least once per day. Using a tongue scraper also helps remove bacteria from your tongue.
  • Drinking lots of water to rinse and clean your mouth of bacteria.
  • Avoiding sweets. Bacteria feed on sugar making bad breath worse.
  • Chewing sugarless gum to produce saliva, which cleans your mouth.
  • Not using tobacco.

If these tips don’t help eliminate bad breath, consult your dentist or doctor. Your bad breath may be a symptom of a larger medical issue.

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Six ways to reduce the effects of sport drinks on your teeth

Advantica-sports-drinks-900Summer is here and that means getting more outdoor exercise like walking, hiking and biking. To quench their thirst, many people turn to sports drinks, but may be unaware of the harm that these beverages can have on teeth.

The acid levels of sports drinks can cause damage to teeth by softening tooth enamel and exposing the softer material underneath. When tooth enamel becomes damaged, teeth become more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, and more vulnerable to cavities and tooth decay. Since tooth enamel can’t be regrown, its loss is irreversible.

Sports drinks may be needed to replace electrolytes after long, high intensity workouts, but for light to moderate exercise, water is still the best drink for rehydrating. If you do reach for a sports drink, follow these tips to minimize the effects on your teeth:

  1. Dilute with water to reduce concentrated sugar levels
  2. Drink out of a straw to minimize contact with teeth
  3. Drink in moderation
  4. Chew sugar-free gum after drinking to increase saliva flow, which helps return acid levels to normal levels
  5. Rinse your mouth with water to keep excess drink from collecting on teeth
  6. Wait 30-60 minutes before brushing, since the toothbrush could spread acid around the mouth and cause further damage to teeth

These tips will help keep your oral health in shape as you work towards improving your overall physical health through exercise.

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Make Summer Reading More Enjoyable by Following the 20-20-20 Rule

boy-reading-in-library-AdvanticaSummer reading programs are a great way for kids to retain what they learned during the school year and continue to develop their reading skills.

Help your kids get the most out of summer reading programs by keeping their eyes healthy and avoiding eyestrain. Reading for long periods of time without taking breaks can cause:

  • Dry or watery eyes
  • Tired, itchy eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Headache
  • Sore neck, shoulders or back
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Problems concentrating
  • Difficulty keeping eyes open

Following the 20-20-20 Rule can reduce eyestrain and help keep eyes fresh. While reading, children and adults should remember to:

  • Take a break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds

Taking short, frequent breaks while looking away from reading material will reduce eye fatigue and make reading more enjoyable.

Eyestrain does not have serious or long-term consequences and usually goes away by resting the eyes. If rest doesn’t relieve the symptoms of eyestrain, make an appointment with your eye doctor.

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The Dirty Truth is a Touchy Subject

From toilBlog Photo - Advanitca 6-30et seats to television remotes – everything we touch transfers germs to our hands. And, what’s found on your fingers can end up in your eyes and lead to infections like conjunctivitis, pink eye or a stye. Beyond bacteria, there is a host of other substances that can cause eye irritants.

Have you ever ended up with wing sauce, hot pepper or onion in your eye? What about a grain of sand, suntan lotion, bug repellent or dirt? Aside from being extremely uncomfortable, it can be dangerous.

 When your eye itches, you instinctively want to rub it, but try to resist the urge. Wash your hands regularly. And, should you get something in your eye, avoid rubbing it. Instead, blink rapidly, flush with water, use a damp cloth to wipe it and, if needed, seek medical attention from an eye care professional.

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