Why do so many of us wait for a health problem to arise before springing to constructive action, taking the necessary steps to strengthening our immune system and building up our natural defenses … after the body is already in ‘fighting mode?’

As Grandpa used to say, “Solve a problem before it becomes a problem.” Now that may sound a little like Yogi Berra, the ex-baseball player and manager, but I understood Grandpa’s message. By becoming proactive and tackling imminent thorny issues, one is less likely to be pricked.

So it goes with your health. Improving diet, exercise, and attitude will serve as a welcome preventative measure to help reduce the onset of illness or a given medical condition. Moreover, taking care of our body, even centering attention on a particularly body part, can thwart possible health problems.

Let’s take angular cheilitis, an inflammation of the lips, often caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. It stands to reason that by keeping your mouth in as pristine state as possible, cheilitis is less likely to materialize. Of interest, I’ve read so many articles on angular cheilitis treatment, yet few even broach this topic. Therefore, I’ve taken the topic by the horns and will list effective strategies to keep the mouth clean. A clean mouth will truly serve as a deterrent to the formation of perleche.

Best Ways to Achieve a Clean Mouth

1. Brush three times a days, especially after meals, and don’t forget to floss – You need to get rid of tartar that build up on the teeth and gums, and eliminate plaque, that sticky substance that releases wayward bacteria. It’s best to use a soft toothbrush, gently, yet firmly, brushing all areas inside the mouth. Ensure that the toothbrush is safely placed away, free of dirt or migrating germs, and replace toothbrushes on a regular basis. Mouthwashes, look for ones that are alcohol-free, can be an important adjunct in removing decomposing and harboring bacteria.

2. Go low on sugar – Bacteria adore sugar so why feed your enemies? Get rid of added and refined sugars in your diet, and even be careful on the amount of ‘natural sugars’ you consume. If you cave in and binge on snack foods, promptly brush your teeth to minimize damage. Certain foods, such as carrots, can counter any bacteria offensive, by the way, as the rough texture helps to scrape off plaque.

3. Visit your dentist more frequently – Yes, I understand about the anxiety, pain, and discomfort one can experience at the dentist’s office, but it’s a necessary evil. Despite even the best efforts to reduce a mouthful of tartar and bacteria, the dentist has special instruments that can get to places we’re unable to reach. Two to three teeth cleanings per year can help prevent tooth decay and an ever-increasing population of bellicose bacteria.

4. Avoid ‘smoker’s mouth’ – I don’t mean to sound like the Surgeon General but there are a myriad of health risks associated with smoking, including the damage it does to the teeth and mouth. Smokers are much more inclined to lose teeth, experience gum problems, deal with the ramifications of teeth calculus or tartar and plaque, and need longer recovery times after dental procedures. I’m not sure if any formal study has been made but it’s almost a no-brainer to assert that smokers are more likely to suffer from angular cheilitis than their non-smoking counterparts.

5. Use fluoride, at least on occasion – I’m so health-conscious and I waver listing this recommendation. There is so much controversy surrounding fluoride, but it seems likely that it can help teeth by reducing decaying acid, released by plaque. I alternate between using a fluoride toothpaste and one without it, hoping that periodic fluoride treatment can make my mouth more kissable and less hospitable to bacteria.

6. Use a salt-water rinse – Remain diligent brushing teeth, flossing, using mouthwash, and undergoing professional teeth cleaning, but a salt-water rinse should be included on any ‘how to keep your mouth clean’ list. Indeed, a spoonful of salt in water (I vary between sea salt which has less iodine than table salt, and iodized salt) can kill bacteria and reduce inflammation – perfect for preventing a bout of angular cheilitis. It also removes food particles and alleviates inflamed gums.

7. Brush your tongue and gums – Yes, back to brushing because it’s such a vital component to achieve a healthy, clean mouth. Many folks just brush their teeth and completely forget about the bacteria-harboring tongue and gums. And while you’re exploring often-ignored regions of your mouth, remember to hold the toothbrush on a 45 degree angle against your gums, and brush in circular motions. There are plenty of Youtube videos where dentists and dental hygienists show the proper way to brush teeth and many adults can benefit from watching them.

8. Hydrate – Drinking lots of water helps the body in so many ways, including removing bacteria from the teeth. The more water consumed the more bacteria get transported off from teeth and out of the mouth, reducing the changes of decay and problematic mouth conditions, such as perleche.

9. Drink tea on a daily basis – A cup of tea (white, green, or black) not only provides anti-plaque fluoride, but it contains flavonoids and other healthful ingredients that make plaque less sticky. In addition, tea purportedly makes cavities less likely to occur because it thwarts bacteria-related acid buildup. Perhaps it even directly kills or suppresses bacteria … as long as you don’t add sugar to your tea!

10. Chew sugarless gum – Sugarless gum, especially those that contain xylitol, are all the rage now, and this guilty pleasure can defeat a certain type of bacteria, Streptococcus mutans, known to cause cavities. Of interest, xylitol itself may offer some effective prevention or relief from angular cheilitis. Chewing sugarless gum after meals can, at the very least, rinse acids off teeth and preserve tooth enamel.

Well, there you have it – 10 prudent ways to keep your mouth clean, fight tooth decay, ensure healthy gums, prevent bad breath, and make perleche less likely to occur. There is a connection between mouth cleanliness/health and angular cheilitis so it’s crucial to tip the balance in your favor.

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