Proper oral hygiene is essential as we age. People over 35 lose more teeth because of gum disease than because of cavities. Periodontal, or gum, disease is actually a broad term that encompasses several different conditions of the gums, including gingivitis and periodontitis. Three-quarters of all adults are affected at some point in their life. The best way to prevent periodontal disease as well as cavities is through a regimen of thorough daily brushing and flossing.
Most cases of periodontal disease develop because of bacterial plaque that builds up on the teeth over time. Plaque is a sticky, colorless film that stimulates an inflammatory response and causes the body to attack itself. When it is not removed, plaque hardens and causes tartar to develop on the teeth, which cannot be removed through brushing at home. The tissues and bone that support the teeth are gradually destroyed by this process. You can reduce your risk of developing gum disease by practicing good oral hygiene on a daily basis. This includes carefully brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day. It is important for patients to practice proper brushing and flossing techniques to ensure that teeth are adequately cleaned.
Brushing Your Teeth Correctly
Brush the outer surfaces of your teeth using small, circular strokes that cover two to three teeth at a time. Position the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line. Using a brush with soft bristles, apply gentle pressure and make sure you reach all the way to the end of the tooth, where it meets the gums. Make your way around your mouth, cleaning the outer surfaces of all your teeth with this technique.
For the inner surfaces of your teeth, you may have to hold the toothbrush at different angles. For instance, to effectively clean the front teeth, place the brush in a vertical position and use short strokes. Repeat these up and down motions over all the teeth and gums in the area.
The molars are home to the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Applying gentle pressure, move the toothbrush back and forth, focusing on two to three teeth at a time. Reposition the brush frequently to ensure all surfaces are being reached. Take your time, working slowly and methodically around your mouth and watch yourself in the mirror to make sure you don’t miss any portion of a tooth. When the job is complete, rinse well to remove any food particles or plaque that might have been loosened.
If you experience pain during brushing or have questions about proper brushing technique, please don’t hesitate to call our office.
How to Floss
Periodontal disease often begins with an inflammation of the gums caused by a buildup of bacteria between the teeth and gums. Flossing is one of the most effective methods for removing plaque from the hard to reach surfaces between the teeth and near the gums. But, as with brushing, using proper technique is important. Floss thoroughly and completely every day to maintain your oral health.
Using approximately 18" of floss, wrap it lightly around the middle fingers of both of your hands. Hold 1-2" of the floss between your index finger and thumb to maximize your control.
Place the floss between the teeth using a gentle back-and-forth motion. Do not snap or place pressure on the floss. Move the floss to the gum line then move around the edge of a tooth. Slide it up and down the tooth and slightly below the gum line. Lift it above the gums and contour it around the edge of the next tooth, repeating the process. Continue methodically around the mouth, slowly flossing both sides of every tooth. Do not press the floss too firmly into the gums or you may cut the delicate gum tissue. Each time you pull the floss out from between two teeth, unravel a fresh section of floss before moving on to the next tooth. Make sure to include the rear of the last tooth on both your upper and lower arches.
After flossing is complete, rinse your mouth with water to rid yourself of any plaque and food particles that were dislodged. Sometimes, when beginning a flossing routine, the gums may bleed or feel a bit sore. As you continue flossing daily, your gums will become less sensitive and the bleeding should stop. If your gums are painful when you floss, you might be applying too much pressure or pinching the gums.
Caring for Sensitive Teeth
Some people may experience sensitivity to extremes in temperature after a dental treatment. This is usually short-lived as long as the mouth is kept clean. If your teeth are particularly sensitive on a regular basis, discuss this problem at your next dental appointment. Your dentist may recommend using medicated toothpaste or a mouth rinse designed for sensitive teeth.
Choosing Oral Hygiene Products
The products you choose for your dental hygiene can also play a role in keeping teeth happy and healthy. There are many options on the market but the best dental care products will be successful for the majority of patients.
Electronic toothbrushes are among the safest and most effective types of toothbrush for most patients. Rotadent and Interplak are two brands of electric toothbrushes that provide excellent results. Oral irrigators that spray water in your mouth will help you rinse thoroughly, but do not remove plaque. The irrigator is just one step in your routine along with brushing and flossing.
Some toothbrushes come with a rubber nib on the handle for the purpose of massaging the gums after brushing. You can also purchase interproximal toothbrushes, which are tiny brushes that clean between the teeth. Consult with your doctor about proper use of these instruments since you can injure your gums if they are used incorrectly.
Fluoride products can significantly reduce the risk of tooth decay, but should not be used on children under the age of six. Tartar control toothpastes can help reduce tartar buildup above the gum line, but gum disease starts below the gum line so these products most likely do little to lessen the risk of gum disease.
Approved by the American Dental Association, anti-plaque rinses contain elements that may fight early stages of gum disease. Use these as part of your daily routine with brushing and flossing.
Seeing your dentist for a professional cleaning on a regular basis is also essential to maintaining good dental health, as he or she can remove plaque and other substances that have built up on the teeth over time. Your dentist will recommend other prevention techniques you can take to help maintain your health and prevent gum disease and serious dental conditions.
Eating a balanced diet plays an important role in your dental health, too. Brushing and flossing help keep your teeth clean and your gums healthy but good nutrition is necessary to help boost your immune system. When your immune system is strong, you are less vulnerable to developing oral disease.
Your eating habits can profoundly affect your dental health. Carbohydrates, sugars and starchy foods such as cake, candy, bread or pretzels can cause the bacteria in your mouth to produce acids, which then attack the teeth. Treats are best provided at the end of a meal, when increased quantities of saliva can wash away their residue.
- granola bars
- dried fruit
- jelly beans
Snacking between meals without brushing afterward gives bacteria a perpetual source of fuel to feed on. This leads to the development of plaque and eventually tooth decay and cavities.