13753995373_59ad6c6111_hEveryone knows you should brush your teeth morning and night, see the dentist when you have a cavity, and try to maintain a white smile. But there’s more to the matter than that.

Brushing your teeth is more than just meeting social expectations. It’s one of the most important things you can do for your overall personal health and wellness.

“Despite all the advances in our ability to prevent, detect and treat dental disease, too many Americans — for a variety of reasons — are not enjoying the best possible oral health,” ADA President Dr. Maxine Feinberg declared in a press release. Feinberg went on to point out the major educational gaps surrounding oral hygiene.

You’ve probably never thought about a few things with regard to your dental care. Knowledge of the facts could lead to prevention and smarter oral care in the years to come.

1. People who visit the dentist twice a year have fewer cavities

Going to the dentist twice a year is an essential step in maintaining good oral health, primarily for preventive reasons. Over time, a hard, bacteria-filled substance called plaque forms on your teeth, which can lead to tooth decay over time.

A dental hygienist will clean your teeth of excess plaque and leave them feeling and looking great. Your bi-annual checkups also enable a dentist to identify bigger problems like cavities and halitosis early on.

Dentists also check for more serious issues such as cancer, palpation of the lymph nodes, and other health concerns that can be detected through the mouth. This makes your twice-yearly exams that much more vital.

2. Gum disease can turn into a fatal condition if it’s left unchecked

Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is a much greater threat than many people realize. Bacteria from plaque and improper dental hygiene can grow inside your mouth, and cause an infection in the gums.

If left untreated, such an infection can enter your blood stream, and leave a permanent mark. Researchers have identified a clear connection between gum disease and heart disease, diabetes, stroke, respiratory disease, and even premature births.

So getting your teeth checked twice a year will reduce the risk you face from periodontal disease, and promote holistic health.

3. Bleeding gums when you brush or floss are a sign of a bigger problem

It’s possible to cut yourself while flossing, but any other reason for bleeding suggests a problem. Most people who bleed after brushing or flossing simply ignore it, though.

Bleeding gums can be a sign of more serious issues such as chronic gingivitis, periodontal disease, gum inflammation, and improper brushing. If the bleeding persists and is left untreated, the impact on your gums will worsen.

Swelling will ensue, and you may find it difficult to eat certain foods. Over time, your teeth will deteriorate, and your mouth will be tender and sore. Bleeding gums can be cured, but the problem must be identified, so you should visit your dentist as soon as possible.

4. You might be brushing your teeth too aggressively

In fact, most people brush their teeth by applying too much pressure. As our minds wander during the task, our hands get heavier. There’s also a misguided belief that brushing your teeth hard and fast will enable you to cut the tooth-brushing time in half.

Such habits can have destructive results. Too much pressure can cause bleeding and infection. It can also lead to tooth sensitivity and pain. It’s better to take your time and pay attention to the amount of force you use when you brush your teeth.

5. Tooth and gum sensitivity could indicate a toothpaste allergy

Sensitivity can stem from many factors, including genetics and bad habits. But did you know that you could actually be allergic to your toothpaste?

Toothpaste allergies are not common, so the symptoms often go unnoticed. The most common symptoms of a toothpaste allergy include burns or sores on the inside of your cheek and tooth sensitivity.

If you notice any kind of pain or discomfort after brushing your teeth with a new toothpaste, switch the paste and consult your dentist.

6. Oral health is a window into your general physical health

To start with, dentists are looking for more than just cavities when they tell you to open wide. They check for cancers, abnormal swelling, and a dangerous condition called gum disease or periodontal disease. It’s characterized by pain and swelling of the gums, and if left untreated, it can be very dangerous.

Gum disease is an infection of the gums, and like any infection, it can introduce bacteria into the bloodstream if not addressed. Once in your blood, bacteria can wreak havoc on your system, and lead to serious health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, kidney failure, and even premature birth.

Thus, having your teeth regularly examined and cleaned by professionals is essential to more than just repair of cavities or bad breath.

7. Sugar isn’t the only contributor to tooth decay

Sugar will undeniably cause cavities, but starchy foods like bread, pasta, and crackers can be just as bad, if not worse. They’re high in carbohydrates, which break down into sugars in the mouth.

Carbs can also dry out your mouth: reducing saliva and preventing it from cleaning excess food from your teeth. Acidic fruits, fruit juices, coffee, ice, crunchy snacks, alcohol, and other unhealthy foods can also play a role in negative oral health.

It’s wise to eat such foods sparingly and brush as often as possible to limit their impact on your enamel.