Why is oral hygiene so important?
Gum disease (periodontal disease), not cavities, is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults over the age of 35. During the adult lifetime, three out of four adults suffer from some form of gum disease. Cavities and gum disease can be prevented with proper oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings.
Tooth decay and gum disease are both the result of bacterial plaque: a colorless film that sticks to the teeth along the gumline and can act as a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria. While plaque continuously forms on our gumlines, it can be easily removed through daily brushing and flossing, and regular dental cleanings.
How to Brush
Our office can answer an questions about proper tooth cleaning techniques, and answer any questions related to pain during or after tooth brushing.
Our dental team recommends a soft bristle toothbrush in order to ensure your teeth are being cleaned well. Aim for the space where your gum line meets your teeth, around a 45 degree angle, and move the brush in a small, circular motion. It is important to employ a small amount of pressure to ensure the bristles are removing any built up plaque, but not so much as to cause pain.
Once the outer surface of your teeth have been cleaned, the same method can be used to clean the back of your teeth. In order to better reach the backs of the inside teeth, it is important to hold your toothbrush at an adequate angle to make sure you are getting the surfaces complete. Don’t forget to (gently) clean the surrounding gum tissues, but not hard enough to cause pain.
The biting surfaces of your teeth are important to pay attention to when cleaning your teeth, as they are most open to cavities due to the grooved surface on the tops. Make sure to reach all surfaces with the bristles of your mouth, almost like painting every inch of a canvas. Once you have completed brushing, it is important to rinse your mouth to make sure to remove any remaining plaque from inside your mouth.
How to Floss
The most common location for gum disease to begin is in between the teeth in areas that cannot be cleaned using a toothbrush alone. This is why flossing is an important aspect of dental care, as floss can remove plaque that forms in the spaces between your teeth. It is important to make sure you are flossing correctly, and practice makes perfect when it comes to your methods.
Waxed floss is the easiest kind of floss to work with when beginning. A piece just over a foot long is the best option to begin with, as it allows you more room to work with. You will be winding the floss around one finger on your right hand, then one finger on your left hand, to allow you to easily move it from one side to the other as you use it.
To floss your upper teeth, insert the floss between each tooth using your thumb to provide pressure. This pressure can gently move your floss between the teeth, and can dislodge any plaque that may be hiding in the cracks. Make sure not to force the floss between the teeth, as this can cause gum damage. It is important to get either side of the teeth you are working between, curving the floss around the edges. Be careful not to injure your gums! If you feel like the floss is becoming dirty with removed plaque, rotate your fingers to loosen a new section of floss for you to work with.
When flossing your bottom teeth, it is important not to neglect your far back molars, which may take some practice to reach. After you have finished flossing, make sure to thoroughly rinse out your mouth to flush out any loosened particles. If it has been a while since you last flossed, you may experience some light bleeding, but this is normal and should heal once your body gets back into the routine.
Caring for Sensitive Teeth
Tooth sensitivity is often present after dental treatment, and can be present due to exposure to hot or cold. This sensitivity should not last too long after your treatment, but can easily be fixed through proper cleaning. If your mouth is not kept clean, sensitivity can persist much longer, or become more severe. Contact your dental office if you have intense or continuous sensitivity, as they may prescribe a medicated mouthwash or toothpaste to help relieve the sensitivity.
Choosing Oral Hygiene Products
The dental market is practically flooded with dental care products, and it can be hard to decide which products to by. Below are some tips from our office to help you figure out the best products for you. This list can be used as a starting point to help make navigating the market of dental products less confusing.
One of the safest and most effective toothbrush types for a majority of our patients is the electronic toothbrush. While high-tech rinsing devices, called oral irrigators, will provide a thorough rinse, they are not to be used as the sole way to remove plaque and other contaminates from teeth. Brushing and flossing is still the best way to ensure the removal of plaque, and we have seen the best results through products by Rotadent and Interplak, although these are just our suggestions.
Some toothbrushes come equipped with gum massagers attached to the handle, which can be used on the gums after brushing. There is also a type of small brushes, called interproximal brushes, that are used to clean between the teeth. These require special instruction to be used correctly, however, and should not be used without consulting your dentist first.
With proper brushing and flossing technique, fluoride mouth washes can help reduce tooth decay by over 35%. However, fluoride rinses should not be used in children under the age of six. While tartar control toothpastes can be used to reduce the appearance of tartar on the surface of the teeth, they do not control tartar below the gumline, and as such are not proven to reduce the chance of gum disease.
The American Dental Association has approved many anti-plaque rinses that can help prevent early onset gum disease. As with every added dental care product, brushing and flossing are still the primary effective cleaning method for your teeth, and should not be replaced with any product.
While daily oral hygiene care is crucial to maintaining your dental health, professional dental cleanings are still recommended to help take care of built on or missed pieces of tartar. Prevention and detection of gum disease is crucial to making sure your teeth are healthy for life.