Oral Hygiene Care

Cleaning, polishing and flossing

The primary function of a dental cleaning appointment is the prevention of cavities [dental carries], gingivitis, and periodontal disease. Regular annual cleanings are the cornerstone for a lifetime of dental health. Some patients require more frequent visits, twice a year or up to four times a year.

Your cleaning appointment will include the following:

  • Dental exam
  • Removal of tarter from above and below the gum line
  • Removal of plaque that forms on the teeth causing tooth decay and periodontal disease
  • Teeth polishing to remove superficial stains and plaque not removed during tooth brushing and scaling
  • Discussion of procedures to enhance the health of your gums

A simple dental routine that can help prevent most dental problems:

  • brushing your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste
  • cleaning between the teeth with ‘interdental’ brushes or floss at least once a day
  • good eating habits – having sugary foods and drinks less often, and
  • regular dental check-ups.

Although most people brush regularly, many don’t clean between their teeth and some people don’t have regular dental check-ups. Your dental team can remove any build-up on your teeth and treat any gum disease that has already appeared. But daily dental care is up to you, and the main weapons are the toothbrush, toothpaste and interdental cleaning [cleaning between your teeth].

Plaque is a thin, sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat foods containing sugars and starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids, which attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth. After constant acid attack, the tooth enamel breaks down forming a hole or cavity.

If plaque is not removed by brushing, it can harden into tartar. As tartar forms near the gum line, the plaque underneath releases harmful poisons causing the gums to become irritated and inflamed. The gums start to pull away from the teeth and the gaps become infected. If gum disease is not treated promptly, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed, and healthy teeth can become loose and fall out. Severe gum disease can lead to teeth falling out.

Your dental team will be able to recommend a toothbrush suitable for you. Adults should choose a small to medium sized brush head. This should have soft to medium, multi-tufted, round-ended nylon bristles or ‘filaments’. The head should be small enough to reach into all parts of the mouth, especially the back of the mouth where it can be difficult to reach. Children need to use smaller brushes but with the same type of filaments.

Gum disease is generally painless, even though it damages the bone supporting the teeth. Gum disease [gingivitis] will usually show itself as red, swollen gums that bleed when you brush or clean between your teeth. Many people are worried when they notice their gums are bleeding and then brush more gently, or stop altogether. In fact, it is important that you continue to clean regularly and thoroughly if you are to fight the gum disease. If the bleeding does not go away within a few days, see your dental team to ask for their advice.

Here is one way to remove plaque – discuss with your dental team which is the best for you:

  1. Place the head of your toothbrush against your teeth, then tilt the bristle tips to a 45-degree angle against your gum line. Move the brush in small circular movements, several times, on all the surfaces of every tooth.
  2. Brush the outer surface of each tooth, upper and lower, keeping the bristles angled against your gum line.
  3. Do this again, but on the inside surfaces of all your teeth. To clean the inside surfaces of your front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several small, circular strokes with the front part of the brush.
  4. Brush the biting surfaces of your teeth.
  5. Brush your tongue to help freshen your breath and clean your mouth by removing bacteria

Be sure to brush thoroughly with a fluoride toothpaste last thing at night and at least one other time during the day.

If you regularly keep getting discomfort or bleeding after brushing, you should see your dentist.

Worn-out toothbrushes cannot clean your teeth properly and may damage your gums. It is important to change your toothbrush every two to three months, or sooner if the filaments become worn. When bristles become splayed, they do not clean properly.

Fluoride helps to strengthen and protect teeth, which can reduce tooth decay in adults and children.

As well as regular family toothpastes, there are many specialized toothpastes. These include tartar control for people who get tartar build-up, and a choice of toothpastes for people with sensitive teeth. ‘Total care’ toothpastes include ingredients to help fight gum disease, freshen breath and reduce plaque build-up. ‘Whitening’ toothpastes are good at removing stains to help restore the natural color of your teeth, but are not strong enough to change the natural shade of the teeth.

Some children’s toothpastes only have about half the fluoride that adult toothpastes have. They only give limited protection for the teeth. If your children are under 7, you should supervise them when they brush their teeth. Encourage them not to swallow the toothpaste and to just spit, not rinse, after brushing.

To have a clean ad healthy mouth you need to use the correct dental- care products. Ask your dental team to tell you what choices there are and give their recommendations.

Flossing

  1. Break off about 45 centimetres [18 inches] of floss, and wind some around one finger of each hand.
  2. Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, with about an inch of floss between them, leaving no slack. Use a gentle ‘rocking’ motion to guide the floss between your teeth. Do not jerk the floss or snap the floss into the gums.
  3. When the floss reaches your gum line, curve it into a C-shape against one tooth until you feel resistance.
  4. Hold the floss against the tooth. Gently scrape the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum. Repeat on the other side of the gap, along the side of the next tooth.
  5. Don’t forget the back of your last tooth. When flossing, keep to a regular pattern. Start at the top and work from left to right, then move to the bottom and again work from the left to right. This way you’re less likely to miss any teeth.

It is always better to prevent problems rather than to have to cure them when they happen. If you visit your dental team regularly you will need less treatment and they will spot any problems earlier, making any treatment easier.