Jump to a Section:
- The Importance of Oral Hygiene
- Oral Pathology
- Oral Hygiene - Brushing
- Oral Hygiene - Flossing
- Oral Hygiene Products
- Professional Cleaning
- Caring for Sensitive Teeth
The Importance of Oral Hygiene
Adults over 35 are more prone to losing a tooth due to gum disease (periodontal disease) than through a cavity. Three out of four adults suffer from gum disease at some point in their life. Cavities and periodontal disease are both caused by plaque, a sticky, colorless film that is primarily made up of food particles and various types of bacteria. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth, and it sticks to your teeth at and below your gum line. Cavities and periodontal disease can be simply prevented through rigorous dental hygiene, including proper daily brushing and flossing.
The inside of a healthy mouth is lined with mucosa, a special type of skin that is smooth and coral pink in color; however, any deviation from its typical appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process, with the most severe case being oral cancer.
To rule out a pathological process or cancerous growth, it is important to monitor your dental health for the following signs:
- Reddish patches (erythroplakia) or white patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth
- A persistent sore that bleeds easily
- A lump or thickening on the inside of the mouth
- Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
These signs are not solely limited to the skin in your mouth, but they can also occur on your lips, cheeks, palate, tongue, face, neck or the gum tissue around the teeth. On top of that, oral diseases can often develop quietly and go unnoticed since they are not usually associated with pain, especially when it comes to oral cancer; however, pain in your face or mouth can still be an indicator for a pathological process or oral cancer, especially if no other symptoms have developed yet.
Your mouth is one of your body’s most important warning systems. That’s why we recommend that you perform an oral cancer self-examination once a month. Whether you experience pain or detect a suspicious lump or sore, do not ignore any signs or symptoms. Contact your dentist as soon as possible to make an appointment, so we can set you up with a treatment plan right away.
Oral Hygiene - Brushing
Brushing your teeth is essential for your oral health and should be part of everybody’s daily oral hygiene routine. We’ve put together some pointers for you on how to brush your teeth properly to keep your teeth clean and healthy:
– Start with the outside surfaces of your teeth. Position your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle where your gums and teeth meet and gently move the brush in a circular motion, using small strokes and light pressure. If you’re feeling discomfort, you’re applying too much pressure.
– Next, proceed to the inside surfaces of your teeth. You will brush the inside of your back teeth just like the outside. For the inside of your upper and lower front teeth, hold the brush vertically and move it back and forth across each tooth with gentle strokes. Don’t forget to include the surrounding gum tissue as well!
– Last but not least, you clean the biting surfaces of your teeth. If you feel over the surfaces with your tongue, you will notice that they’re full of depressions and hard-to-reach spots. That’s why it is important to use short and gentle strokes while also changing the position of your brush as often as necessary. You can also watch yourself in the mirror while brushing to make sure you’re cleaning all surfaces properly.
– Once you’re done brushing, rinse your mouth thoroughly to remove any remaining plaque you might have loosened.
At Monterey Peninsula Dental Group, we are here to help. If you experience any pain while brushing or have any questions about proper oral hygiene, please don’t hesitate to call our office.
Oral Hygiene - Flossing
While brushing is crucial for your oral health, there are still many hard-to-reach spots you won’t be able to clean properly. Periodontal disease often appears between teeth where you cannot clean properly with your toothbrush alone. That’s where flossing comes into play. Flossing is a very effective way to remove plaque from in-between your teeth, if you do it correctly. Here are some guidelines for you to develop the proper technique:
– Take an 18-inch-long piece of floss. We recommend that you use waxed floss to make the cleaning process easier.
– Lightly wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand. Wrap the rest around the middle finger of the other hand. Hold the floss tightly between your thumb and forefinger of each hand.
– Now, let the cleaning begin! Start with your upper teeth. Gently insert the floss between your teeth using a back-and-forth motion. However, don’t force the floss in, and don’t try to snap it into place!
– Bring the floss to your gum line, curve it into a C-shape against one tooth, and slide it into the space between the gum and your tooth until you feel resistance. Just remember: Each space you’re sliding into has two surfaces that need to be cleaned, but be careful not to cut the gum tissue between your teeth while flossing.
– Next, move on to your bottom teeth, and guide the floss with your forefingers through each space between your teeth.
– As you move from space to space, the floss will become soiled. To get a fresh section, simply turn from one finger to the other.
– Before you finish, don’t forget to also include the backside of your last teeth on both the upper and lower teeth.
– Once you’re done flossing, rinse your mouth thoroughly with water to remove any remaining, loose plaque and food particles.
Don’t be alarmed if you experience some bleeding or soreness during your first week of flossing. If your gums hurt, make sure you run the floss gently through the spaces of your teeth. It takes some time and practice to floss correctly, but it is a quick and effective tool to incorporate in your daily oral hygiene routine to keep your mouth and teeth healthy.
Oral Hygiene Products
The shelves of your drug store are most likely lined with all kinds of toothpastes, mouth rinses, toothbrushes and other dental products that promise you healthier, whiter teeth. Having to choose between all of these products can become difficult and confusing. We put together some recommendations that will help you navigate through the great variety of dental offerings, so you can be sure you’re choosing the right products to maintain your healthy smile.
Let’s start with picking a toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes are safe and very effective for most patients since they can greatly reduce the time and effort necessary to remove all of the plaque and food particles that are clinging to your teeth. Some toothbrushes come with a rubber tip on the handle. The rubber can be used to massage your gums after brushing. Remember: Keeping your gums healthy is just as important as keeping your teeth healthy.
For a more thorough dental hygiene, we often recommend using an oral irrigator. This water spraying device is a great addition to brushing and flossing as it can help you remove stubborn food particles and plaque. Alternatively, you can also use an interproximal toothbrush to clean the spaces between your teeth. For some people, these tiny brushes are easier to use than floss.
Lastly, toothpastes and mouth rinses advertise with a variety of ingredients that promise you healthier, stronger and whiter teeth. Generally, we advice our patients to look for products that contain fluoride. Fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses can reduce tooth decay by up to 40 percent when used in conjunction with brushing and flossing. However, mouth rinses overall are not recommended for children who are 6 years or younger. Additionally, some toothpastes promise tartar control. These toothpastes generally only reduce tartar above the gum lime. Gum disease, however, starts below the gum line, so these products have not proven to effectively reduce the early stages of gum disease. Anti-plaque rinses, on the other hand, contain agents that can help control early stages of gum disease. These rinses are also approved by the American Dental Association.
The great variety of oral hygiene products at the store can be overwhelming. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask us for assistance. Your periodontist is usually the best source to help you select the best dental products for your individual needs. Just remember: Regardless of the product you end up picking, brushing and flossing are the most important components of your daily dental hygiene routine to keep your teeth strong and healthy.
While daily brushing and flossing will minimize the formation of plaque and calculus (tartar), it is also important to regularly see your dentist for professional cleanings. These cleanings are crucial to remove any remaining plaque and tartar that cannot be reached or removed by brushing and flossing alone.
Good and healthy nutrition is another key aspect of maintaining your dental health. While daily brushing and flossing will help you keep your teeth and gums healthy and strong, a balanced diet will boost your body’s immune system, which will protect you against oral diseases.
The bacteria living in your mouth feed on starchy, sticky and slow-to-dissolve foods. During that process, acids are produced, which can attack your teeth. This will weaken your tooth enamel and can cause cavities and other more severe dental issues.
Sticky and slow to dissolve foods:
– Granola bars
– Chewy fruit snacks
– Dried fruit
– Potato chips
– Hard candy
On top of what you eat, it also matters how often you eat. Frequent snacking can be equally harmful to your dental health since your teeth won’t have any time to recover in between the bacterias’ attacks. Sticky and starchy foods create less acid when eaten as part of a meal. Saliva production increases during meal times, rinsing away food particles while neutralizing harmful acids. Other foods like nuts, cheese, onions and some teas have proven to be beneficial for your dental health since they slow down the growth of the bacteria in your mouth.
Caring for Sensitive Teeth
After any dental treatment, your teeth might feel sensitive when exposed to something hot or cold, like a beverage or food. There’s no need to worry. This sensitivity should fade rather quickly if you keep your mouth clean. If the sensation becomes too severe, you should consult your dentist as soon as possible. Your dental office can recommend medicated toothpaste or a mouth rinse to help you relieve the sensitivity of your teeth.
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