The health of a person's teeth and gums affects their overall health. Missing or failing teeth make it difficult to chew certain foods, a toothache can mean time missed from work, and gum disease increases a person's risk of heart disease. Taking specific steps throughout life can keep the teeth and gums healthy. The following items are things any person can do today to improve their oral health. 

Start Early

Children should begin seeing a family dentist when the first tooth comes in. Sadly, 25 percent of children today start school with one or more cavities, which can often be prevented with regular dental care. By the time children are 15, 50 percent have one or more cavities. One way to reduce this risk is to request sealants, particularly for permanent molars. 

Fluoride Treatments

Fluoride treatments strengthen enamel, reducing the risk of tooth decay. Approximately 75 percent of Americans today have access to fluorinated water, and for those who don't, fluoride treatments are a good alternative. Ask about fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinses. However, excessive fluoride use with young children can lead to white spots on the teeth. 

Brush and Floss Routinely

Humans of every age need to brush their teeth twice and floss once daily. Gum disease is now a problem for many teens, so teach these basic skills early. Purchase a new toothbrush three or four times each year. If gripping a toothbrush is hard, use an electric toothbrush or invest in a bicycle grip to put over the handle. 

Avoid Tobacco Use

Individuals who use tobacco are at much higher risk of oral cancer and gum disease. Tobacco also stains the teeth, which makes the smile less attractive. Seek help to quit. Over 40 percent of individuals 65 years of age or older who smoke have lost all of their teeth. Adults 20 years of age and older are more likely to have untreated tooth decay if they smoke, possibly due to the high cost of tobacco today. 

A Healthy Diet

A healthy diet helps keep the teeth and gums healthy. Eat whole foods to get the necessary nutrients. Omega-3 fats may help lower the risk of gum disease by reducing inflammation. Avoid sugary foods. The mouth is teeming with bacteria. This bacteria breaks simple sugars down, which leads to acid production. This acid erodes the tooth enamel, putting the teeth at greater risk of decay. Carbonated drinks increase the acidity of soft drinks and fruit drinks. People tend to sip these drinks, so the acidity level in the mouth remains high.

Regular Check-Ups

People need to see the dentist twice a year, and the dentist might recommend more frequent visits. During the cleaning, the hygienist removes plaque that a person cannot remove at home. They also look for signs of tooth grinding, oral cancer, gum disease, and medication interactions. The dentist might also spot other health issues and refer the patient to their general practitioner. Anemia, autoimmune disorders, and HIV are among the many health issues with symptoms that affect the mouth. 

Regular dental care is needed for optimal oral health. Many people fear the dentist and avoid going until they have no choice. Sadly, when they visit the dentist, they need extensive work as they have ignored their teeth and gums. Make an appointment today to have your teeth and gums checked. Doing so will allow problems to be caught early and save money on dental bills.