It is not uncommon for us to hear from new patients that they are unhappy with their teeth and concerned that they’ll have to be extracted and replaced with implants. We reassure these patients that it is possible to keep their teeth caries-free and gum disease-free.
This can be achieved by following very basic dental hygiene principals —consistent and proper brushing and flossing. Both should be done everyday. Yes, even flossing.
As with the rest of the bodies, many strains of bacteria are present in the mouth which live on the surface of the tongue, cheeks, gums, and teeth. They replicate very quickly and grow into colonies called “dental plaque”. These bacteria feed on teeth and gums; in doing so they secrete acids that destroy the enamel, the toughest outer layer of our teeth, causing dental decay and caries. If left untreated, depending on its severity dental decay may lead to the need for a filling, a root canal, or even an extraction.
In addition, these bacteria secrete toxins that act on our gums to cause gum disease or periodontitis. Some common signs of periodontitis are bleeding, puffy, swollen, receding, or painful gums, malodor from the mouth, and loose teeth.
The basic principles of daily oral hygiene are brushing and flossing.
When it comes to choosing a toothbrush, we recommend one with soft bristles. Harder bristles may cause damage to the tooth structure called abrasion, as well as gum recession.
It is recommended to brush the teeth for two minutes using a combination of the following techniques:
- Move the head of the toothbrush in a circular motion against the surface of the teeth
- Move the head of the toothbrush in a sweeping motion away from the gums
- Keep the head of the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle at the point where teeth and gums meet, without displacing the bristles move your hand up and down repetitively. Be mindful of the pressure you apply when brushing; brushing too hard may cause tooth sensitivity.
Alternatively, you could opt to use an electric toothbrush. Brushing with either electric or manual is satisfactory as long as it is done properly.
Flossing, a vital component of dental hygiene, needs to be done once a day every day. Even the best toothbrush will not be able to remove bacterial plaque buildup between the teeth. The acidic environment created by the plaque is responsible for eroding the enamel and causing cavities. Floss on the market is available in several modalities: floss on a spool and floss picks. Whichever you choose to use, it is important to remove plaque from both teeth of the interdental space. This can be accomplished by pressing the floss tightly to the side of each tooth. An effective alternative to flossing is using a water flosser, such as the Waterpik. These devices create a flow of water, which when directed to the interdental space will act to remove plaque from those surfaces. Another alternative for flossing is using an interdental brush; this small brush is able to fit into space between two adjacent teeth and remove plaque.