Why Is Oral Hygiene So Important?
Adults over 35 lose more teeth to gum disease/periodontal disease than from cavities. Three out of four adults are affected at some time in their life. The best way to prevent cavities and periodontal disease is by good tooth brushing and flossing techniques, performed daily. Remember, always use only a soft toothbrush to brush your teeth.
Periodontal disease and decay are both caused by bacterial plaque. Plaque is a colorless film, which sticks to your teeth at the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth. By thorough daily brushing and flossing you can remove this bacterial biofilm and help prevent periodontal disease.
How to Brush
While brushing the outside surfaces of your teeth, position the brush at a 45-degree angle where your gums and teeth meet. Gently move the brush in a circular motion several times using small, gentle strokes. Use light pressure while putting the bristles between the teeth, but not so much pressure that you feel any discomfort. In the back of the mouth while brushing the outer surfaces it is helpful to almost close your mouth completely in order to relax the muscles of mastication and to clean posterior teeth effectively.
When you are done cleaning the outside surfaces of all your teeth, follow the same directions while cleaning the inside of the back teeth.
To clean the inside surfaces of the upper and lower front teeth, hold the brush vertically. Make several gentle back-and-forth strokes over each tooth. Don’t forget to gently brush the surrounding gum tissue.
Next you will clean the biting surfaces of your teeth by using short, gentle strokes. Change the position of the brush as often as necessary to reach and clean all surfaces. Try to watch yourself in the mirror to make sure you clean each surface. After you are done, rinse vigorously to remove any plaque you might have loosened while brushing.
If you have any pain while brushing or have any questions about how to brush properly, please be sure to call the office.
How to Floss
Periodontal disease usually appears between the teeth where your toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing is a very effective way to remove plaque from those surfaces. However, it is important to develop the proper technique. The following instructions will help you, but remember it takes time and practice.
Start with a piece of floss (waxed is easier) about 18″ long. Lightly wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand. Wrap the rest of the floss around the middle finger of the other hand.
To clean the upper teeth, hold the floss tightly between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Gently insert the floss tightly between the teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Do not force the floss or try to snap it in to place. Bring the floss to the gum line then curve it into a C-shape against one tooth. Slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth until you feel light resistance. Move the floss up and down on the side of one tooth. Remember there are two tooth surfaces that need to be cleaned in each space. Continue to floss each side of all the upper teeth. Be careful not to cut the gum tissue between the teeth. As the floss becomes soiled, turn from one finger to the other to get a fresh section.
To clean between the bottom teeth, guide the floss using the forefinger of both hands. Do not forget the backside of the last tooth on both sides, upper and lower.
When you are done, rinse vigorously with water to remove plaque and food particles. Do not be alarmed if during the first week of flossing your gums bleed or are a little sore. If your gums hurt while flossing you could be doing it too hard or pinching the gum. As you floss daily and remove the plaque your gums will heal and the bleeding should stop.
If bridges are present it is important to use a floss-threader in order to get below the pontic “replaced” tooth and keep the gums plaque free. After guiding the floss threader between the embrasures or below the contacts of the pontic and abutment teeth loop floss through the floss threader then gently pull the floss threader, with the floss, through the bridge. Then with a gentle sweeping motion clean the underside of the bridge and gums to remove any food particles, plaque, and bacteria.
Caring for Sensitive Teeth
Sometimes after dental treatment, teeth are sensitive to hot and cold. This should not last long, but only if the mouth is kept clean. If the mouth is not kept clean the sensitivity may remain and could become more severe. If your teeth are especially sensitive consult with our office. We may recommend a medicated toothpaste or mouth rinse made especially for sensitive teeth that is used daily or only when sensitivity arises.
Choosing Oral Hygiene Products
There are so many products on the market it can become confusing, and choosing between all the products can be difficult. Here are some suggestions for choosing dental care products that will work for most patients.
Sonic driven electronic toothbrushes are safe and effective for the majority of the patients. Oral irrigators (water spraying devices) will rinse your mouth thoroughly, but will only remove a limited amount of plaque. You need to brush and floss in conjunction with the irrigator. We see excellent results with electronic toothbrushes manufactured by Sonicare, Braun, and Oral-B. These devices may require some getting use to but once you have adjusted the results are something you not only can see but feel as well. Most everyone can benefit from a sonic electronic toothbrush which our office believes is the easiest and best way to achieve great oral hygiene on a daily basis and over the long term.
As far as manual toothbrushes go you must always use only a SOFT toothbrush. Medium and hard toothbrushes can and will significantly damage your gums and associated soft tissues. Some toothbrushes have a rubber tip on the handle; this is used to massage the gums after brushing. There are also tiny brushes (interproximal toothbrushes) that clean between your teeth. If these are used improperly you could injure the gums, so discuss proper use with our office.
Toothpastes must always contain Fluoride. Fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay by making the teeth less soluble, in other words making them more dense and strong. Fluoride actually changes the tooth on a structural, molecular level. Without it teeth are very susceptible to tooth decay. Our office does not support one toothpaste over another, just as long as it contains fluoride and you brush at least twice daily.
Fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses if used in conjunction with brushing and flossing can reduce tooth decay and help eliminate bacteria connected to gingivitis and periodontitis significantly. Remember, these rinses are not recommended for children under six years of age and any fluoride supplement should only be prescribed by your dentist in order to avoid the development of fluorosis or possible systemic complications. Additionally, all rinses and toothpastes will reduce plaque above the gum line, but most gum disease starts above the gum line so if used effectively daily brushing, flossing, and rinsing is the best way to prevent the migration of plaque/bacteria below the gum line. Unfortunately, not all etiology associated with gingivitis and periodontitis is environmental and is due to genetic reasons. If there is concern for any reason that an oral condition exists which is causing concern contact our office immediately.
Certain rinses, approved by the American Dental Association, contain agents that may help bring early gum disease under control. Use these in conjunction with brushing and flossing. Call our office for a list of rinses we recommend for your individual application.
Daily brushing and flossing will keep dental plaque and calculus to a minimum, but a professional cleaning will remove plaque and calculus in places your toothbrush and floss have missed. Your initial appointment and subsequent recall appointments with our hygienists utilize state of the art instrumentation and medicaments specifically formulated to treat patients and their existing state of oral health. Hygiene appointments are an extremely important part of your program to prevent gum disease. Keep your teeth for a lifetime.
Good nutrition plays a large role in your dental health. Brushing and flossing helps to keep your teeth and gums healthy and strong however a balanced diet will help to boost your bodies immune system, leaving you less vulnerable to oral disease.
How often and what you eat have been found to affect your dental health. Eating starchy foods such as crackers, bread, cookies and candy causes the bacteria in your mouth feed on it, they then produce acids, which attack your teeth. Also foods that stick to your teeth or are slow to dissolve give the acids more time to work on destroying your tooth enamel.
Sticky/slow to dissolve foods:
- granola bars
- chewy fruit snacks
- dried fruit
- potato chips
- hard candy
Sticky and starchy foods create less acid when eaten as part of a meal. Saliva production increases at mealtime, rinsing away food particles and neutralizing harmful acids. It is very important to simply rinse your mouth with water immediately after you eat sticky or starchy foods in order to decrease the concentration of acids in the mouth. More importantly a person should brush, floss and rinse immediately after consumption of sticky or starchy foods to effectively remove particles that could increase the acid concentration in the mouth leading to tooth decay and periodontal complications.