Caring For Your Teeth

Your teeth are very important to your health and should be taken care of very well. By maintaining healthy teeth and gums throughout your life you are less prone to dental common dental problems. We have divided this section into the following dental care sub sections so that you may educate yourself with on how to keep your teeth and gums in optimal health.

  • Cleaning your teeth
  • Flossing
  • What to do about bad breath
  • Proper brushing
  • Proper flossing
  • Tips for tongue brushing DOWN
  • Fluoridation
  • Tooth whitening fact sheet
  • Preventive dentistry for the older adult

Cleaning Your Teeth

Cleaning of the teeth is the most important type of dental maintenance preventing conditions such as cavities, gum disease and even yellowing of the teeth. Since bacteria is always naturally forming in the mouth and the number of bacteria increases with the sugars from food, if a patient does not brush his/her teeth, plaque forms. Over time, plaque deposits build and begin to break down the enamel of a tooth. While plaque may be removed by a dentist at scheduled cleanings, it may be too late and tooth or gum decay may occur. Additionally, brushing teeth also helps bad breath.

Flossing

The purpose of flossing is to remove plaque from in between teeth. Since bacteria can multiply in between the teeth where a toothbrush cannot go, flossing is the only way to effectively remove plaque. If proper flossing is not practiced, a patient is at high risk for periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a condition where the gums and teeth are attacked by bacteria. A patient can lose a tooth and this is why flossing is so important. Some studies also show that removing plaque will add a few extra years to one's life.

What to do about Bad Breath

Having bad breath may be a chronic and embarrassing problem for many people. This malady, called halitosis, is caused by a lack of oral hygiene and the buildup of bacteria. Food particles that may become lodged will give off more bacteria than those that are removed with a toothbrush. Tobacco related products will cause bad breath as well as a host of other dental problems. Also, eating pungent foods such as onions and garlic leads to halitosis and there is little a patient can do but continue oral hygiene until the smell disappears in a few days. Other things that may cause foul breath are dental cavities, dental appliances and yeast infections in the mouth. Another condition that causes halitosis is called xerostomia which is a dry mouth condition. Because there is no saliva to remove dead cells from out of the mouth, bacteria is formed because of the remnant dead cells. People who are on a diet often find themselves with bad breath related to a saliva deficit. Finally, unrelated to dentistry, there are a few medical conditions that may cause halitosis: acid reflux, liver or kidney disease, certain medications, sinus infections with postnasal drip and pneumonia.

The good news is that the condition is treatable. Remedies include:

  1. Practicing dentist advised oral hygiene including brushing teeth regularly and flossing for bacteria control
  2. Avoiding foods with a strong taste and after effect as well as tobacco products
  3. Drinking plenty of non-sugary beverages so that bacteria will wash out of the mouth
  4. Knowing that mouthwash only temporarily treats the symptoms of bad breath and not the root cause
  5. Brushing the tongue or using a tongue scraper to remove excess bacteria
  6. Brushing teeth after a meal.

Proper Brushing

In order to remove bacteria from all teeth, dentists prefer patients to brush them in a certain way. They suggest patients brush their teeth at least twice a day and after meals so that there are no foods particles or sugar to attack the tooth's surface. Selecting the best toothbrush is also of importance. There are many different sizes and softness to toothbrushes. For example, if a patient has sensitive gums, a softer brush will likely be recommended. The technique and pattern involved is:

  1. Apply a pea sized amount toothpaste to the brush.
  2. Hold the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle and then move the brush side to side. Move the brush about the length of one tooth. Repeat this for the front of the lower and upper teeth.
  3. With the brush at the same angle as before, brush the back sides of the teeth.
  4. Also use the tip or end of the brush to make sure the insides of the upper and lower teeth are cleaned.
  5. Make sure to brush the biting surface of each tooth. Many people neglect to brush the molars in the back of the mouth and these are the teeth most susceptible to cavities.
  6. Brushing the tongue removes more bacteria and also helps with the smell of breath.
  7. The entire brushing process takes up about two minutes.
  8. Rinse the mouth out with water so that there is no toothpaste left. Toothpaste is not meant to be swallowed but it is not toxic.
  9. Floss the teeth.
  10. Use mouthwash to remove any last remnants of bacteria which freshens the breath.

Proper Flossing

In order to remove bacteria from in between teeth, it is necessary to floss. Dental floss is a long string made out of nylon or plastic and comes in a waxed or unwaxed variety. Most dental offices recommend Glide floss but any type of floss is adequate for the process. The steps include:

  1. Using an 18" piece of dental floss, hold one end of the floss and the other end will wrap around the opposite hand. Section off about two inches of floss to use.
  2. Very gently guiding the floss in between teeth taking care if teeth are close together and the floss needs to be maneuvered more slowly
  3. To reach the gum line and then scrape the floss against each side of the tooth to remove all plaque
  4. Moving the floss up and down several time to rub away plaque
  5. Going from tooth to tooth and using different sections of the floss for each
  6. Using mouthwash or water to remove plaque that may still be in the mouth.

If the gums start to bleed, as long as there is no underlying dental condition, a patient only needs to be less forceful with the floss. The gums may bleed the first few times that anyone tries to use floss. On the market, there are also floss picks which make it easier to reach the back teeth but since the pick uses the same floss for all teeth, it distributes bacteria back in into the mouth.

Tips for Tongue Brushing

The tongue scraper was invented with a purpose intended to remove food, dead cells and bacteria from the tongue all which cause halitosis. While a traditional toothbrush can be used to clean the tongue, it is not extremely effective since it is designed for the hard surface of the teeth. Dentists recommend using a tongue cleaner since it is so efficient in removing bacteria, especially on the back part of the tongue where most of the bacteria lies. The process of using a tongue scraper involves:

  1. Brushing teeth first
  2. Moving the scraper starting from as far back of the tongue as possible
  3. Using the scraper on the side of the tongue
  4. Rinsing the scraper and the mouth out after each pass of the scraper
  5. Using a mouthwash when finished in order to kill the most bacteria possible.

Fluoridation

The addition of fluoride to water is known as fluoridation. Fluoride acts through saliva to reduce the rate of demineralization of tooth enamel. Because fluoride is known to be so beneficial, it was added to drinking water throughout the United States in 1951 after much research. The aim of fluoridation is to lessen the chances of adults and especially children from having a dental cavity or another type of dental disease. The government regulates fluoridation and keeps in mind that low income children need better protection as they may not have healthcare. Some studies show the reduction of cavities in passing years has been up to 40% and other studies claim an even higher rate. Water fluoridation is not cheap averaging about $.92 per person a year, however, when compared to other forms of fluoride therapy, it is the most inexpensive option. To give a bit of perspective, the cost per person yearly for fluoride toothpaste is about $10, dental cleanings are $84 and about $83 to restore a cavity.

There is some controversy regarding the right of the government to do as it pleases with the water supply. Debaters comment that because this affects public health, the government should not prescribe the addition of fluoride to everyone. However, because many public health foundations have approved the safety of the decision on part of the government, fluoridation remains in circulation today.

Tooth Whitening Fact Sheet

Over the past ten years, the tooth whitening industry has grown considerably. There is a wide range of options and price points ranging from whitening strips purchased at the drug store to porcelain veneers. No matter the choice of the consumer, some facts about whitening include:

  1. Peroxide-based tooth whitening is most effective because it opens the pores of the enamel and penetrates the tooth to remove stains both inside and out.
  2. Not all over-the-counter whitening systems are safe for use.
  3. Over-the-counter products will not deliver the same outcome as a dentist dispensed whitening treatment.
  4. A laser treatment is often used with a gel placed on the tooth's surface to perform a rapid whitening procedure. Dentists will also make whitening trays that a patient can wear at night for a more gradual yet affordable whitening technique.
  5. Whitening toothbrushes, toothpaste and other products can only produce a limited amount of whitening.
  6. Anyone with gum disease or untreated cavities should not go through with any whitening method.
  7. Negative side effects include tooth sensitivity, tissue sensitivity and unfavorable color change (translucent or gray).

It is best to consult a dentist before trying any type of whitening system.

Preventative Dentistry for the Older Adult

Older adults are at a higher risk for dental complications as they may have been alive before the wide spread use of fluoride. This makes seniors much more susceptible to cavities and gum disease as well. Older adults are also creating a trend of keeping their natural teeth as opposed to dentures. This means that over the patient's lifetime, his/her tooth is less strong than that of a child. The number of visits to the dentist by older adults has increased especially for procedures like routine examination, x-rays, crowns and bridges. Preventative measures are simple: proper brushing, diet, flossing, using mouthwash and more frequent visits to the dentist. Fluoride gels can also be applied by a dentist thereby countering demineralization of the tooth. Wearing dentures may eliminate many dental problems, if the patient is willing. When a senior visits the dental office, the doctor will be able to make the most informed decision and recommend a plan of action involving preventative care.