Tips to Keep Your Mouth and Teeth Healthy

Taking good care of your mouth and teeth throughout your whole life can help prevent problems as you get older. Taking care of your teeth means brushing and flossing every day and seeing the dentist regularly.

Infants and children

The first set of teeth is already almost completely formed at birth. At first these teeth are “hiding” under the gums. These teeth are important, because after they come in, they let your baby chew food and talk well. You baby’s first set of teeth also holds the space where permanent teeth will eventually be. They help permanent teeth grow in straight.

You can care for your baby’s teeth by following these suggestions:

  • Clean the new teeth every day. When the teeth first come in, clean them by rubbing them gently with a clean wet washcloth. When the teeth are bigger, use a child’s toothbrush.
  • Children under 2 years of age shouldn’t use toothpaste. Instead, use water to brush your child’s teeth.
  • Don’t let your baby go to sleep with a bottle. This can leave milk or juice sitting on the teeth and cause cavities that are known as “baby-bottle tooth decay.”
  • Encourage older children to eat low-sugar snacks, such as fruits, cheese and vegetables. Avoid giving your child sticky, chewy candy.
  • Teach your children how to brush their teeth and the importance of keeping their teeth clean.
  • Take your children to the dentist regularly. The American Dental Association recommends that children see their dentist starting at 1 year of age.

Teens

Taking good care of your mouth and teeth will help you have pleasant breath, a nice smile and fewer cavities. Here are some simple things you can do:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day.
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco, which can stain your teeth, give you bad breath and cause cancer.
  • Wear the right protective headgear while playing contact sports.
  • See your dentist every 6 months for regular check-ups and cleanings.

Adults

Continuing good mouth and tooth care as an adult can help you avoid tooth loss, painful gums or other problems. Here are some helpful things you can do:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day.
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
  • Ask your doctor if your medicines have side effects that might damage your teeth. (For example, some medicines may cause you to have a dry mouth.)
  • Look inside your mouth regularly for sores that don’t heal, irritated gums or other changes.
  • See your dentist every 6 months for regular check-ups and cleanings.

If you have any problems with your teeth or concerns about your mouth, see your doctor or dentist right away.

Start Your Exercise using This Helpful Tips

How do I start an exercise program?

First, talk to your family doctor. This is especially important if you haven’t been active, if you have any health problems, if you’re pregnant, or if you’re an older adult.

What kind of exercise should I do?

The best type of exercise is one that you will do on a regular basis, so choose activities that you enjoy. Physical activities that increase your heart rate and move large muscles (such as the muscles in your legs and arms) are good choices. Walking is a popular choice and does not require special equipment, except for appropriate shoes. Other good options include swimming, biking, jogging, and dancing.

Exercising with a friend or a family member can make it more fun, and having a partner to encourage you can help you stay on track.

How much should I exercise?

Talk to your family doctor about how much exercise is right for you. A good goal for many people is to work up to exercising 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. If 30 to 60 minutes at a time sounds difficult to fit into a busy schedule, you can split up your physical activity into smaller chunks of time. Try exercising for 10 minutes at a time throughout your day. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator or go for a walk during your lunch break. Remember: exercise has so many health benefits that any amount is better than none.

Is there anything I should do before and after I exercise?

You should start an exercise session with a warm-up of about 5 to 10 minutes. Start by slowly stretching your muscles and then gradually increase the intensity of your activity. For example, begin walking slowly and gradually pick up the pace.

After you are finished exercising, cool down for about 5 to 10 minutes. Stretch your muscles and let your heart rate slow down gradually. You can use the same stretching exercises you did during your warm-up period.

A number of warm-up and cool-down stretching exercises are described at the end of this handout. If you are going to exercise your upper body, be sure to use stretching exercises for your arms, shoulders, chest, and back.

How hard do I have to exercise?

Measuring your heart rate (beats per minute) can tell you how hard your heart is working during an activity. You can check your heart rate by lightly pressing the tips of your first 2 fingers on the inside of your wrist to take your pulse. Count your pulse for 15 seconds, and multiply the number of beats by 4. To time the 15 seconds, use the timer function on your smartphone or a watch or clock with a second hand.

Most people will get the greatest benefit and lower their risks if they keep their heart rate between 50% and 85% of their maximum heart rate when exercising. To figure out your maximum heart rate, subtract your age (in years) from 220. This number is your maximum heart rate. To figure out your target heart rate range, multiply that number by 0.50 and 0.85.

For example, if you are 40 years of age, subtract 40 from 220 to get your maximum heart rate of 180 beats per minute (220 – 40 = 180). Then, multiply 180 by 0.50 and 0.85 to get your target heart rate range of 90 to 153 beats per minute (180 x 0.50 = 90 and 180 x 0.85 = 153).

When you first start an exercise program, aim for the lower end of your target heart rate range. As your exercise program progresses, you can gradually build up to a higher target heart rate.

If you are taking medicine to treat high blood pressure, you have a heart condition or you are pregnant, talk to your family doctor to find out what your target heart rate should be.

How can I prevent injuries?

To avoid injuring yourself during exercise, don’t try to do too much too soon. Start with an activity that is fairly easy for you, such as walking. Do it for a few minutes a day, several times a day. Slowly increase the amount of time and the intensity of the activity. For example, increase your walking time and speed over several weeks.

Pay attention to your body. Stop exercising if you feel very out of breath, dizzy, faint, nauseous, or if you feel pain. Talk with your family doctor if you have questions or think you have injured yourself seriously.

What is strength training?

Most kinds of exercise will help your heart and your other muscles. Strength training is exercise that develops the strength and endurance of large muscle groups. It is also called “resistance training” or “weight training.” Lifting weights is an example of this type of exercise. Exercise machines can provide strength training. Push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and leg squats are also strength-training exercises.

Your doctor or a trainer at a gym can give you more information about exercising safely with weights or machines. If you have high blood pressure or other health problems, be sure to talk to your family doctor before beginning strength training.

Warm-up and cool-down stretches

When performing any of the stretches described below, keep the following in mind:

  • Keep your breathing slow and natural. Do not hold your breath.
  • Move slowly and steadily. Avoid jerky movements to prevent injury.
  • Do not bounce while stretching. Bouncing can cause muscles to tear.

Arm Stretch – Triceps
Raise your right arm above your head. Bend it until your elbow is pointed toward the ceiling and your hand is behind your head. Grasp your elbow with the left hand and lean gently toward the left. Try not to bend forward during the stretch. Hold for 20 seconds and then relax. Repeat 2 to 3 times on each side.

Arm Stretch – Biceps
Extend your arms behind your back, keeping your elbows straight. If possible, interlock your fingers with your palms facing inward. Slightly lift your arms up and toward the ceiling. Hold for 20 seconds and then relax. Repeat 2 to 3 times.

Mid-back Stretch
Extend your arms in front of your body, keeping your elbows straight. Avoid lifting your shoulders toward your ears. Interlock your fingers if possible, and gently pull forward to feel your shoulder blades stretching. Hold for 20 seconds and then relax. Repeat 2 to 3 times.

Calf Stretch
Face a wall, standing about 2 feet away from it. Keeping your heels flat and your back straight, lean forward slowly and press your hands and forehead to the wall. You should feel stretching in the area above your heels. Hold for 20 seconds and then relax. Repeat 2 to 3 times.

Quad Stretch
Face a wall, standing about 1 foot away from it. Support yourself by placing your right hand against the wall. Raise your right leg behind you and grab your right foot with your left hand. Gently pull your heel up toward your buttock, stretching the muscles in the front of your right leg for 20 seconds, and then relax. Repeat 2 to 3 times with each leg.

Groin Stretch
Squat down and put both hands on the floor in front of you. Stretch your left leg straight out behind you. Keep your right foot flat on the floor, and lean forward with your chest into your right knee. Gradually shift weight back to your left leg, keeping it as straight as possible. Hold for 20 seconds and then relax. Repeat 2 to 3 times with each leg.

Hamstring Stretch
Lie down with your back flat on the floor and both knees bent. Your feet should be flat on the floor, about 6 inches apart. Bend your right knee up to your chest and grab your right thigh with both hands behind your knee. Gradually straighten your right leg, feeling gentle stretching in the back of your leg. Hold for 20 seconds and then relax. Repeat 2 to 3 times with each leg.

About Cholesterol and Kids

Are high cholesterol levels only a problem for adults?

No. Many people don’t realize that problems with high cholesterol levels can begin in childhood. High cholesterol levels are likely to continue to rise as a child grows into a teen and adult. This increases your child’s risk for cholesterol-related health problems.

What are the risks of high cholesterol levels?

Your child’s body needs some cholesterol to protect nerves, make cell tissues, and produce certain hormones. But too much cholesterol damages blood vessels. It builds up along blood vessel walls and forms sticky, fatty deposits called “plaque.” Studies show that plaque can begin to form in childhood. It is more likely to form when a child’s cholesterol levels are high.

High cholesterol levels increase your child’s risk of heart disease and stroke when he or she gets older. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The risk is higher in people who have a family history of heart disease, have diabetes, are overweight or obese, have unhealthy eating habits, are not physically active, or smoke.

Where does cholesterol come from?

The liver makes all the cholesterol your child’s body needs. He or she also gets cholesterol from food, including animal products such as eggs, meats, and dairy products.

What is the difference between “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol?

Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are often called “bad” cholesterol. They deliver cholesterol to the body. Some people’s bodies make too much LDL cholesterol. LDL levels also are increased by eating foods high in saturated fat, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol.

High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are often called “good” cholesterol. They remove cholesterol from the blood. A healthy level of HDL may help protect against heart disease. Exercise can increase the amount of HDL cholesterol the body produces. Avoiding trans fats and following a healthy diet also can increase HDL levels.

If a person’s total cholesterol level is high because of a high LDL (“bad” cholesterol) level, the risk for heart disease or stroke is higher. But if a person’s total cholesterol level is high because of a high HDL (“good” cholesterol) level, the risk probably is not increased.

Should my child be tested for high cholesterol levels?

Most children do not need to be tested for high cholesterol unless there is a family history of high cholesterol or the child or teen has diabetes.

What causes high cholesterol levels in children?

The following are factors that can cause high cholesterol levels in children:

  • Family history of high cholesterol levels (for example, a parent who has high cholesterol levels)
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Obesity

What can I do to help prevent my child from having high cholesterol levels?

Help your child maintain a healthy weight by teaching him or her to make healthy food choices and be physically active.

Here are a few tips:

  • Offer your child at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. For example, have healthy snacks such as apples, bananas, carrots, and celery readily available.
  • Include plenty of low-fat proteins, vegetables, and whole grains in the meals you make.
  • Avoid saturated fat and trans fats. Saturated fats are usually found in animal products (for example, meat and eggs) and dairy products (for example, cheese and butter). Many snack foods (for example, cookies and chips) are high in saturated fat. Trans fats are usually found in processed foods (for example, doughnuts and crackers) and fried foods (for example, French fries and onion rings).
  • Avoid fast-food dining. If you do eat at a fast-food or sit-down restaurant, choose the healthiest options available.
  • Limit your child’s time using a TV, computer, cell phone, or game station to no more than 1 to 2 hours a day. Set a good example by limiting your own screen time, too.
  • Encourage your child to find physical activities he or she enjoys and get active. Aim for at least 1 hour of active play every day.
  • Make physical activity part of your whole family’s lifestyle. Take a walk, go for a bike ride, or do chores together. Plan active family outings.

More information about making healthy food choices is available in Nutrition: Healthy Eating for Kids.

More information about the importance of physical activity is available in Keeping Your Child Active.

Will my child need medicine to lower his or her cholesterol levels?

In almost all cases, healthy eating and physical activity are the first choice to lower a child or teen’s high cholesterol levels. If healthier eating and exercise habits don’t help, your family doctor may consider prescribing a cholesterol-lowering medicine. This type of medicine may be needed if your child has diabetes or is overweight or obese.

Not all medicines are safe for use in children. Do not give your child a cholesterol-lowering medicine that isn’t specifically prescribed to him or her.