Dental Hygiene – Cleaning

Brushing Your Teeth

Proper tooth brushing involves four things:

  1. a soft toothbrush
  2. toothpaste with fluoride
  3. the correct brushing angle
  4. brushing in a pattern

It’s important to brush at least twice a day using a soft toothbrush. The flexible bristles of a soft toothbrush are gentler on the gums and make it much easier to remove the plaque below the gum line, where periodontal disease starts.

Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride hardens the outer enamel layer of the teeth. It might stop a cavity in its tracks and give you more resistance to future cavities.

Angle the bristles of the brush along the gum line at a 45-degree angle. Apply firm but gentle pressure so the bristles slide under the gum line.

Move the brush over the entire surface of two or three teeth at a time in small, circular motions. Allow some overlap as you move to the next teeth. Tilt the brush and use the tip to brush the backs of the front teeth.

It’s fine to brush in any regular pattern you choose, but since the insides of the teeth tend to get less attention, you might start with the insides of the upper teeth, then go to the insides of the lower teeth. Switch to the outsides of the upper teeth, and then the outsides of the lower teeth. Brush the chewing surfaces of the upper teeth, then the lower teeth. End by gently brushing your tongue and the roof of your mouth. This removes germs to help keep your breath fresh.

[ribbon toplink=”true”]Disclosing Tablets[/ribbon]

Disclosing tablets are made of a harmless vegetable dye that stains plaque bright red.

The main cause of cavities and periodontal disease is the accumulation of plaque. Plaque is the sticky film of food and bacteria that forms constantly on your teeth. It’s hard to see plaque, but it really shows up after being stained with disclosing tablets.

You must completely remove plaque each day, or it will build up and mineralize to become tartar, which is also called calculus. It takes a professional to remove tartar. There’s no way for you to remove it at home—a toothbrush or floss won’t even budge it.

Disclosing tablets can help you prevent cavities and periodontal disease by helping you see the plaque that hasn’t been removed. Then you can remove it before it hardens to become tartar.

After brushing and flossing, simply chew a disclosing tablet, swish it around your mouth, and rinse with water. Using a small dental mirror, check your teeth for any signs of red, especially near the gum line. Brush and floss these missed areas and you can be confident that your teeth are plaque-free.

[ribbon toplink=”true”]Flossing[/ribbon]

Most cavities and periodontal disease begin between the teeth. While brushing is important, the bristles of your brush simply don’t reach between teeth. To keep your gums and teeth healthy, you must remove the plaque between your teeth at least once a day. That’s why we always recommends dental floss.

Don’t worry about the type of floss. They all work pretty much the same. Wind about 18 inches of floss around the middle fingers of each hand, leaving about 5 inches between your hands. Pinch the floss between your thumbs and index fingers and leave about one inch in between to work with.

Gently guide the floss down between the teeth using a side-to-side motion. If your teeth are too tight to floss, or if it catches or tears, let us know about it. These are problems that need to be fixed.

Pull the floss tightly in a C shape around the side of the tooth and slide it under the gum line. Clean the side of the tooth by using an up-and-down motion, not side-to-side. When all the plaque has been removed the floss will squeak as it rubs against your tooth. Then pull the floss around the next tooth and repeat the process.

Wind the floss to a fresh section and gradually work your way around your mouth cleaning both sides of every tooth. If you have problems reaching some areas you may want to use a floss fork.

If your gums are infected, they’ll bleed when you floss. That’s to be expected if you are just beginning to floss. After a week or so of regular flossing the bleeding should go away. Come to the office if it doesn’t.

Now you know why brushing your teeth is only half the battle. Most cavities and periodontal disease start between the teeth where your toothbrush just can’t reach.

[ribbon toplink=”true”]Periodontal Involvement[/ribbon]

There are two reasons why it takes new tools and techniques to clean the plaque off of your teeth when you’ve lost bone due to periodontal disease.

First, in a healthy mouth, the space between the tooth and gums (called the sulcus) is normally two to three millimeters deep. And that’s how far below the gums you can effectively clean with a toothbrush and floss. But with periodontal disease, the sulcus deepens; it’s now greater than three millimeters, and it is called a pocket. Pockets are notorious hiding places for plaque and bacteria.

The second problem in periodontal disease has to do with the shape of the roots. If there is no periodontal disease, the bone level is high and the gums attach firmly at the necks of the teeth. You can wrap floss around this surface and do a thorough job of keeping plaque off of your teeth.

In periodontal disease, the attachment shifts and you lose bone. Now you have root surfaces to contend with, and they have indentions. Floss stretches across these indentions and can’t remove the plaque hiding inside.

Special tools are necessary to reach down beyond the normal three millimeters to thoroughly clean the indentions in the sides of the roots. Each tool is useful in different areas of your mouth.

We will be happy to work with you to customize a plaque-removal program using these special tools and techniques.

[ribbon toplink=”true”]Fluoride[/ribbon]

The greatest breakthrough in preventive dentistry in the last fifty years has been the use of fluoride.

Almost all water naturally contains some fluoride. About three-fourths of American cities add additional fluoride to the water supply for the prevention of tooth decay. Fluoridated water alone has decreased the cavity rate for school children by 60 percent.

There are many benefits in the use of fluoride, for people of all ages. When children are young and their teeth are forming, fluoride joins with the enamel surface and makes it harder and more decay-resistant.

The benefits for adults are just as great. Fluoride can help repair an early cavity, even before it’s become visible in the mouth, by rebuilding the enamel layer of the teeth.

Fluoride is also helpful in older adults to help solve the problem of root caries or root sensitivity. And fluoride rinses or gels are sometimes prescribed to help eliminate germs that cause gum disease.

Most dentists recommend fluoride toothpaste for all dental patients. We may also recommend additional sources of fluoride for increased protection. This includes:

  • drops
  • tablets
  • gels or rinses
  • prescription toothpaste

Another highly effective time for fluoride application is immediately following your cleaning in the dental office. A topical gel is applied with the use of a tray or with a cotton applicator.

Fluoride is an important part of every tooth decay prevention program. When combined with the good hygiene habits of brushing and flossing, the number of cavities in children and adults can be dramatically reduced.

[ribbon toplink=”true”]Infant Tooth Decay[/ribbon]

Bottle syndrome, or early childhood caries, is the severe decay of baby teeth caused by the constant presence of milk, formula or juice in a child’s mouth.

Bottle syndrome can cause a lot of damage in a short amount of time. Every time a child drinks anything containing sugar, bacteria in the mouth produce acids that attack the tooth enamel for at least thirty minutes.

The most common source of sugar is a bottle left in the child’s mouth for long periods, especially at night or during naps. What most people don’t realize is that even milk and unsweetened fruit juices contain sugar, lactose and fructose.

[ribbon toplink=”true”]Grinding Your Teeth (Bruxism)[/ribbon]

Bruxism is the clenching or grinding of the teeth, which occurs primarily while you are sleeping. The symptoms of bruxism are:

  • a sore, tired jaw
  • difficulty opening and closing your mouth
  • sensitive teeth
  • earaches or pain in your jaw joint

The pressure on your teeth is many times greater during bruxism than during normal chewing. If left untreated you may experience:

  • flattened or worn-down teeth
  • teeth chipped at the gum line
  • loose teeth
  • damage to the bone around your teeth
  • damage to your jaw joint, the TMJ

Though all the causes of grinding are not known, stress is often a factor. There are a variety of stress-reduction techniques that may be helpful, or medication might be recommended to temporarily reduce stress or to reduce pain and soreness.

Spaces, worn teeth, or teeth that are out of alignment may cause grinding and clenching. Crowns, bridges, or other dental restorations can restore your bite and eliminate the pattern of grinding and clenching.

One of the most common and effective ways to stop the damage caused by grinding and clenching is the use of a nightguard. A nightguard is a plastic device that fits over your teeth and is worn at night to protect them from the damage caused by grinding. There are many types and styles of nightguards. Some are hard and some are soft; they may be worn on the top or the bottom teeth.

To make a nightguard, on the first appointment we take impressions. From these impressions, models are made of your teeth. It’s on these models that the custom nightguard is made. On your second appointment you will try on the nightguard, and we will carefully adjust its fit.

Without treatment, the constant clenching and grinding of your teeth can cause widespread damage in your mouth. Dealing with the problem early on can restore harmony and prevent many future problems.

By switching to a pacifier or a bottle of plain water at these times, and by gently cleaning your child’s teeth after she eats, you can avoid bottle syndrome and the damage and suffering it causes.

[ribbon toplink=”true”]Chewing (Smokeless) Tobacco[/ribbon]

Chewing tobacco is terrible for your teeth!

Not only is that pinch between your cheek and gum giving you unsightly stains and bad breath, it’s also a hot spot for gum disease, decay, and oral cancer. On top of that, you have to worry about stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, diabetes, bladder cancer, heart disease, clogged arteries and strokes.

White spots on the gum line are not cancerous yet, but for one out of 20 people, oral cancer will develop from these spots.

Case in point: Sean Marsee of Ada, Oklahoma, lifted weights and ran the 400-meter relay. By the time he was 18 years old, he had won 28 medals. To keep his body strong, he didn’t smoke or drink. But he did use smokeless tobacco, because he thought it was harmless.

When oral cancer was discovered, part of Sean’s tongue was removed. But the cancer had spread. More surgeries followed, including removal of his jawbone. Just before he died, Sean wrote (he no longer could speak) this plea to his peers: “Don’t dip snuff.”

He died at age nineteen.