Oral Hygiene & Dental Checkups

Why is Oral Hygiene So Important?

Not only is home-care and regular dental cleanings important for appearance, but also to help prevent pain and tooth loss.  Proper home care and regular dental visits are the best way to prevent cavities and the onset of periodontal disease (gum problems).  Generally, small cavities and gum disease are painless, and it is necessary for X-rays and a complete dental exam to assess your overall oral health.  Every patient is different and may require additional home care instructions. While some people can benefit from brushing and flossing alone, others may need proxy brushes, stimudents, rubber-tips, water pics, etc.  Your hygienist will evaluate your gums and determine (and demonstrate) what is suitable for you.

  • To Prevent Tooth Caries (decay) & Gum Disease (Periodontal Infections)
  • Healthier bone and gums for longer-lasting teeth (and to hold your teeth in position)
  • To minimize infections/complications to your overall general health
  • Early detection and treatment of cancer and overall health

Good Oral Hygiene (to prevent decay and gum infections)

  • Brush 2x-day for 2 minutes (always before bed) with a Fluoridated Toothpaste
  • Floss 1x daily
  • Visit your dentist 2x year (usually every six months), but follow your dental professional’s recommendations.
  • Eat and drink fewer sugary and acidic foods
  • Fluoride to make teeth more resistant to decay: tablets for children (as prescribed by your physician or dentist) and topical fluoride for both children and adults.
  • Ask your dentist about additional cleaning supplements

Statistics/Facts

  • Adults over 35-years-old lose more teeth to gum diseases than from cavities
  • Three out of four adults are affected at some time in their lives by some form of gum disease
  • Malocclusion (having crooked teeth or a “poor bite;” misalignment) can cause problems when chew, speak, and breathe. It also increases the risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
  • Consistently missing dental cleanings & check-ups can lead to an impaired ability to eat & digest foods (leading to nutritional & systemic problems), bad breath, gum infection, gangrene, and adverse effects on cardiovascular well-being and overall health

What is plaque?  

a soft film of bacteria that forms on your teeth throughout the day. Bacteria in plaque produces acid after you eat and drink, which can cause cavities (tooth decay) or gingivitis (gum inflammation) if left without removal (brushing, flossing, and professional cleanings)

What is Tartar/Calculus?

If plaque is not removed regularly from your teeth, it hardens (tartar) and can only be removed by a dental professional/hygienist

Caries/Cavities: the tooth begins to decay or rot ( broken down enamel) when not cleaned regularly and properly

What is Gingivitis? A standard, mild form of gum disease

  • Cause: when plaque/calculus is on the gum-line and not removed regularly
  • Symptoms: Irritation, redness, inflammation (swelling) of the gums (which is the supporting structure of your tooth). Most likely will not “hurt,” but you may notice bleeding when brushing, flossing, or even touching
  • Treatment: Gingivitis is reversible if treated promptly by your healthcare provider (a routine, 6-month visit) and then maintaining proper oral hygiene at home

What is Periodontal Disease? A severe gum infection damages the soft tissue (gums) and can destroy the surrounding bone that supports the teeth if left untreated; ultimately leading to premature tooth loss.

  • Plaque/Calculus starts on the top of the tooth but spreads to under the gum line if left untreated. This “infection” will continue to spread if left untreated
  • Cause: Poor oral hygiene, not treating gingivitis and/or not having regular dental visits, misaligned teeth, grinding/clenching. Some risk factors include: smoking, chewing tobacco, hormonal changes, recreational drugs, obesity, inadequate nutrition, genetics, and certain medical conditions (such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease)
  • Symptoms: Swollen, red gums that bleed easily, bad breath, pus, loose teeth, pain when chewing, new spaces developing between your teeth, recession, a change in your bite, and can cause tooth loss. The bacteria related to periodontal disease can enter your bloodstream and affect other parts of the body (has been linked to Respiratory Disease, Coronary Artery Disease, Diabetes, etc.) NOTE: Smoking is associated with a decreased flow of saliva, a tendency to form more dental calculus, a thickened, fibrotic appearance of the gum tissue with little to no bleeding
  • Treatment: Individually based, but may involve “Scaling & Root-Planing” (removing the calculus on all tooth & root structures including those that formed below the gum line), antibiotics, and possibly a referral to a Periodontal Specialist.
 

How to Brush

  • Always use a soft toothbrush
  • Position brush at a 45-degree angle where the gums and teeth meet, move in a circular motion with small, gentle strokes, moving from the tooth-to-tooth and changing direction as needed to clean all surfaces.
  • Clean all tooth surfaces: cheek & lips side, tongue-side, chewing/biting surface, and in-between (everyone has their routine, make sure to clean the entire tooth and the entire mouth)
  • Use light pressure around gum lines and putting the bristles between the teeth (you should feel your teeth getting clean without any discomfort) *An Electric Toothbrush does the work for you, and slight pressure is needed
  • Watch yourself in the mirror to make sure all teeth get clean
  • When done brushing, rinse vigorously to remove any plaque you might have loosed while brushing (we recommend using water or Fluoridated Mouth Rinse that contains no alcohol)
 
 

How to Floss

The toothbrush cannot get in-between the teeth (incredibly tight or crowded teeth). Flossing is a very effective way to remove plaque from these surfaces:

  • Start with a piece of floss (waxed is easier) about 18″ long (an arm’s length)
  • Wrap both ends of the floss around your middle fingers, hold the floss tightly (to make it taut) and gently move back-and-forth to insert between teeth (do not snap it into gums as it may cause discomfort). Then rub up-and-down against one tooth (curving it into a C-shape), then the other tooth. Continue until all teeth have been flossed (including the back of the last tooth in each quadrant).  *Helpful Hint: Use pointer fingers for lower teeth and thumbs for upper teeth
  • Recommend using a different spot on the floss for each tooth (loosen from around the middle fingers as you continue) to prevent taking something out of one tooth and putting it into another
  • When done, rinse vigorously with water to remove plaque and food particles.
  • Do not be alarmed if gums bleed or are a little sore during the first week of flossing (the more consistent you are, the less plaque and minor bleeding). However, if your gums hurt while flossing, you may be doing it too hard or pinching the gum
 

Sensitive Teeth

  • Sometimes, after restoration/filling/crown, the teeth are sensitive to hot and cold for a short period.
  • Gum recession (the margin of the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth wears away or pulls back, exposing more of the tooth) exposes the root surface, which does not have the protective layer of enamel. This has been known to cause sensitivity to cold, hot, sweets, etc. in specific individuals
    • Treatment: Try Sensodyne toothpaste (or any toothpaste containing Potassium Nitrate). Use every day for two weeks. However, if symptoms persist or worsen, there may be another cause, and you should contact the dental office.

Choosing Oral Hygiene Products

There are many products on the market. Ask your Dental Hygienist what is right for you!

Some suggestions:

  •  Automatic Electronic Toothbrushes: safe and effective for the majority of patients and help you to brush tooth-by-tooth
  • Floss, Reach Flossers, Floss Threaders (for braces, bridges, etc.), Oral Irrigators (suitable for bridges and those who don’t floss regularly; However, it does not replace flossing and is not recommended as a substitute)
  • Fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinses used in conjunction with brushing & flossing can reduce decay as much as 40% * Rinses not recommended for children under six years of age
  • Anti-plaque rinses, approved by the American Dental Association, contain agents that may help bring the early gum disease under control *Use in conjunction with brushing & flossing

Professional Dental Cleaning

  • As important as visiting your physician for a check-up
  • Daily brushing and flossing will reduce plaque/tartar, but we all miss spots and need a professional cleaning to prevent cavities and gum infections (brushing and flossing alone may not prevent bone loss or periodontal disease)
  • Every six months or more frequently as recommended by your Dentist/Hygienist

What to Expect At Your First Checkup

  • The appointment is usually 1 – 1 1/2 hours long (we take pride in getting to know each of our patients, tailoring treatments to the health needs and goals of every individual
  • Gathering Dental History
  • Digital X-rays: typically, a complete set of X-rays is acquired on the first visit to get an overall understanding and for the doctor to be able to perform a comprehensive exam (to detect not only the cavities visible in the mouth but to check the root surfaces, bone levels, and possible abscesses or pathology *This is done once every five years; whereby limited X-rays are obtained once a year for early cavity detection
  • Oral Screening and Teeth Exams: We not only examine your teeth for decay, but we also perform oral cancer/lesion screening for symptoms that may be related to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses.
  • Gum Evaluation and Teeth Cleanings: The dental hygienist will evaluate your gums (measuring periodontal pockets and recession) and clean your teeth by removing areas of tartar, plaque, and calculus.
  • Oral Hygiene Habits: We end your visit by reviewing and reinforcing proper oral hygiene.

If you have any questions about maintaining oral hygiene at home, feel free to call us at 508-362-4885. Our team of dental specialists are here to help.