Dental Hygiene and Your Overall Health

When people hear any mention of oral or dental hygiene, they probably think of how brushing and flossing impact the health of their teeth. Although this is an extremely important benefit of a good oral-care regiment, the term “dental hygiene” encompasses much more than that. Your mouth’s health, including that of your teeth, has a significant impact on your overall physical health.

You cannot be healthy without oral health. Oral health and general health are inextricably linked, and therefore can’t be seen as two separate things. For individuals, this means that it is just as important to take care of your mouth, your teeth, and your overall oral health as it is to take care of the rest of your body.

What affects oral health?

Your mouth has roughly 500 different species of bacteria. Many are harmless, and some are even good bacteria that help maintain the balance of your intestinal flora.

The two most prevalent dental diseases are caries (cavities), also known as tooth decay, and periodontal (gum) disease.

A cavity is actually a symptom of a disease called caries. Tooth decay is a result of an active infection and condition in the mouth. There elements impacting this disease include, among other factors, active infection, bacteria levels, acid / PH levels, salivary activity, your tooth structure, and your nutrition. Oral bacteria live in a housing structure called biofilm. This offers them protection, food, and an ideal replicating environment.

Biofilm can be healthy if there is a balance of good bacteria. However, caries are a result of the numbers of “bad” bacteria increasing and the existent of an oral environment where they thrive and therefore cause tooth decay.

Harmful bacteria can also infect your gums, causing gum disease. Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque (a sticky form of bacteria that forms on the teeth). If the plaque is not removed, it will continue to build up and create toxins that can damage the gums. Gum disease forms just below the gum line and creates small pockets that separate the gums from the teeth.

Now that you know how important good dental hygiene is, be sure to contact our office to get your teeth cleaned professionally by our expert hygienist every six months, have regular dental checkups, brush and floss your teeth at least twice daily, and replace your toothbrush every three months.

Electric or Manual Toothbrush: What’s the Difference?

You live in the golden age of toothbrushes. Until a few decades ago, people used twigs or brushes made from animal hair to clean their teeth: not very soft and none too effective. Now you have a choice of manual brushes with soft, medium, or hard bristles. Or you might choose to go with an electric toothbrush instead.
Have you ever wondered whether manual or electric brushes provide better cleaning? Actually, they both do the job. The key is to brush and floss every day, regardless of the kind of brush you prefer. At our office, we like to say the best brush is the one you’ll use. So if you prefer manual, go for it. If you prefer electric, turn it on. Both types have their advantages but both types will get the job done as far as removing plaque, if used properly.

Electric Toothbrushes

  • Provide power rotation that helps loosen plaque
  • Are great for people with limited dexterity due to arthritis or other physical limitations
  • Are popular with kids who think the electric brushes are more fun to use
  • Can come with variable speeds to help reduce pressure on sensitive teeth and gums
  • Uses timers to ensure you brush evenly across the four quadrants of your mouth and for the optimal two minutes each session

Manual Toothbrushes

    • Can help brushers feel they have more control over the brushing process
    • Allow brushers to respond to twinges and reduce the pressure applied to sensitive teeth and gums
    • Are more convenient for packing when traveling
    • Are cheaper and easier to replace than the electric versions

In many ways, the golden age is just beginning. There are already phone apps available to remind you to brush and floss. New apps can play two minutes worth of music while you brush, help you compare the brightness of your smile, or remind you to brush and floss throughout the day. Maybe someday, there will be an app that examines your teeth after brushing to identify spots you might have missed.

October Is National Dental Hygiene Month

Here are some guidelines around brushing, flossing, rinsing and chewing sugar-free gum, you can following and apply it to your daily oral health regimen.

Brush

Always brush two minutes, two times a day, every day

Research shows that brushing for two minutes is the single most important method for reducing plaque and preventing cavities, gingivitis and other plaque-related diseases. Brushing for two minutes twice a day is crucial to maintaining healthy smiles. Proper brushing technique cleans teeth and gums effectively. Here are some links to help you find out more about how to brush your way to a healthier smile and mouth.

Floss

Ensure Flossing is a Daily Habit

Daily flossing (or other methods of interdental cleaning) removes plaque and food particles that cannot be reached by a toothbrush, particularly under the gumline and between teeth. Failure to do so can allow for plaque buildup in these areas – which in turn can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Getting into the routine of daily flossing can be a challenge. Making flossing easier can improve compliance with recommendations for daily flossing. If you resist flossing, try to determine why and tell your dental hygienist. Knowing the precise reason you are not flossing will enable them to recommend floss with the right thickness, coating or filaments so you might be encouraged to floss more often. Here are some additional education information sources and resources to assist in making sure to floss each day.

Rinse

Use mouthwash to improve oral health

Rinsing your mouth with an anti-microbial mouth rinse each day is another important step you can take to prevent gum disease (gingivitis). Remember that the teeth themselves account for less than half of your mouth, so brushing and flossing alone cannot eliminate all plaque and germs. Be sure to finish your oral care routine with an antiseptic mouthwash that carries the ADA Seal of Acceptance. You also should talk with your dental hygienist to determine which mouth rinse is right for you. The following educational information and resources can provide with you additional insight into the proper use of mouthwash.

Chew

Chewing sugar-free gum after eating can help fight tooth decay

Supported by:

Chewing sugar-free gum after eating is clinically proven to be an important part of good oral health. The action of chewing sugar-free gum stimulates the most important natural defense against tooth decay — saliva — which in turn helps fight cavities, neutralizes plaque acids, remineralizes enamel to strengthen teeth and washes away food particles. Scientific evidence clearly shows that chewing sugar-free gum, especially after eating and drinking, has a positive impact on oral health. Help your body naturally fight against tooth decay by chewing sugar-free gum after meals. Scientific evidence clearly shows that chewing sugar-free gum, especially after eating and drinking, has a positive impact on oral health.

Top Tips for Healthy Teeth

We all know that prevention is the best medicine, and this applies to your oral health most of all. Keeping your teeth and mouth healthy can be easy if you follow these simple tips and manage your oral health from an early age.

  1. Start children on the path to ideal oral health at an early age. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children visit the dentist by their first birthday, but home dental care should start before your child’s first tooth erupts. After every feeding, use a damp cloth to wipe your infant’s gums clean. At your baby’s first dental appointment, we’ll go over the steps you’ll need to take to keep your little one’s new teeth healthy.
  2. Prevent cavities in hard-to-reach molars with sealants. Sealants are plastic resins that bond and harden in the deep grooves on the surface of your child’s teeth. When a tooth is sealed, the tiny grooves become smooth and are less likely to harbor plaque. This ultimately reduces the risk of tooth decay.
  3. Focus on nutrition. A healthy diet is essential to healthy teeth and gums. A well-balanced diet of whole foods that includes grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, and dairy products, will provide all the necessary nutrients needed for teeth to stay healthy.
  4. Don’t smoke or use smokeless tobacco. In addition to staining your teeth, tobacco significantly increases the risk of gum disease and oral cancer. Like many kinds of cancer, oral cancer can be deadly.
  5. Brush your teeth twice a day, for two minutes each time. In addition, floss your teeth at least once a day. Use ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove food particles and plaque from the surfaces of your teeth. If you can’t brush after a meal, rinse your mouth with water, or chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva flow, which naturally washes bacteria away and neutralizes acid.
  6. Visit our office every six months for a checkup and professional cleaning. With routine exams and cleanings, you can prevent tooth decay and gum disease, save money by avoiding costly and extensive dental procedures, keep your teeth white by reducing staining from food and drinks, and have a smile that will last a lifetime!

When should I floss?

If you are one of the 50 percent of the population who floss on a daily basis, we think that’s great! We prefer our patients practice good oral hygiene between office visits, and part of that process includes flossing, which is the process of cleaning between the teeth to remove food and debris from the areas that are otherwise hard to reach with a toothbrush. When food remains trapped between the teeth, it provides a breeding ground for bacteria, which can ultimately cause periodontal disease.

You’re probably thinking, “Okay, should I floss before or after brushing?”

According to the American Dental Association, you can do either. The advantage of flossing first is that you can brush away dislodged food debris afterward. However, brushing before flossing allows you to loosen plaque between the teeth, making it easier to floss more effectively.

Whichever you choose, make sure to floss thoroughly. That means using a fresh strand of dental floss each day, and carefully pulling it back and forth between all of the teeth. Do not skip flossing because your teeth look or feel clean.

Unlike brushing, you needn’t floss multiple times a day; once a day will do the trick. Some of our patients choose to floss in the morning or after lunch, however many prefer to floss at night so as to prevent food and debris from remaining in the crevices of the teeth overnight. The idea here is that flossing before bedtime could prevent the build-up of plaque, a known cause of tooth decay.

Patients can choose between interdental cleaning picks, pre-strung flossers, or flexible floss strands. If you have questions about your flossing technique or which type of floss is best for your teeth, please give us a call and we will be happy to discuss this with you and make home care recommendations.

Happy flossing!

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