Oral Hygiene FAQ
Why is oral hygiene so important?
Adults over 35 years old lose more teeth to periodontal disease (gum disease) than from cavities. Three out of four adults are affected at some time in their life. The best way to prevent cavities and periodontal disease is by good tooth brushing and flossing techniques, performed daily.
Periodontal disease and decay are both caused by bacterial plaque. Plaque is a colorless film, which sticks to your teeth at the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth. By thorough daily brushing and flossing you can remove these germs and help prevent periodontal disease.
I brush and floss daily, why do I need a professional cleaning?
Daily brushing and flossing will keep dental calculus (tarter) to a minimum, but a professional cleaning will remove calculus in places your toothbrush and floss may have missed or cannot reach to. Your visit to our office is essential to prevent gum disease. Keep your teeth for your life!
How many times a year do I need to get a cleaning?
It depends on a patient’s overall health history, dental history, and home dental care. In a healthy periodontium it is recommended to have at least two cleanings done a year. Patients who have active periodontal (gum) disease or previous history of scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) is recommended to come in for periodontal maintenance four times a year or every three months.
What is the difference between a ‘regular cleaning’ and a periodontal maintenance?
A “regular” cleaning or prophylaxis is a procedure done on patients with healthy periodontium. During a routine cleaning, the dental hygienist removes plaque, tartar and stains from the tooth surface. It is a preventative procedure intended to control factors that can cause irritation and inflammation.
Periodontal maintenance is a procedure done to treat active gum disease and is for patients who previously have had periodontal therapy or a deep cleaning done. Periodontal maintenance is recommended every 3-4 months but is determined by the dentists’ and hygienists’ clinical evaluation of the patient. During a periodontal maintenance, the dental hygienist removes bacterial plaque and tartar from above and below the gums.
What kind of toothbrush should I be using?
Soft bristle brushes are recommended by the ADA (American Dental Association); medium and firm brushes can damage teeth and gums over time. Use soft pressure, for two minutes, two times a day.
Both electric and manual toothbrushes clean teeth well given the correct angulation and and proper technique are used. Power toothbrushes are safe and effective for the majority of patients. Please ask your dental professional for special promotions!
*Whether using an electric or manual brush, toothbrushes should be replaced every 3-4 months.
What is the proper brushing technique?
Position the brush at a 45 degree angle where the gums and teeth meet. Gently move the brush in a circular motion several times using small, gentle strokes brushing the outside surfaces of the teeth. After the outside surfaces are complete, the same technique should be used on the back inside surfaces of the teeth.
To clean the inside surfaces of the upper and lower front teeth, hold the brush vertically. Make several gentle back-and-forth strokes over each tooth. Don’t forget to gently brush the surrounding gum tissue.
Next, clean the biting surfaces of your teeth by using short, gentle strokes. Change the position of the brush as often as necessary to reach and clean all surfaces. It is recommended to watch yourself in the mirror to make sure each surface is cleaned thoroughly. After you are done, rinse vigorously to remove any plaque you might have loosened while brushing.
Your hygienist will review oral hygiene instructions with you at your routine cleanings.
What toothpaste should I use?
Most toothpaste will clear away bacteria growth and acids from food and drink consumption. Toothpaste with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance will always have fluoride, which helps strengthens and protect teeth.
Non-fluoridated toothpaste is also available in stores, however, do not have ADA testing and approval.
Tartar control toothpastes will reduce tartar above the gum line, however, gum disease starts below the gum line so these products have not been proven to reduce the early stage of gum disease.
If your teeth are sensitive, there are also toothpaste to help relieve the discomfort. For these toothpastes to be most effective, it should be used consistently and used twice a day when brushing. If sensitivity persists, please consult your dentist.
Do I really need to floss?
Periodontal disease usually appears between the teeth where your toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing is a very effective way to remove plaque and bacteria from those surfaces. However, it is important to develop the proper technique, remember it takes time and practice!
Start with about 18 inches of floss; waxed flossed is recommended for those who have tight contacts between the teeth. Lightly wrap one end of the floss around the middle finger of one hand and the other end of the floss around the middle finger of the other hand; leave about 4-5 inches in between.
Hold the floss tightly between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Gently insert the floss tightly between the teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Do not force the floss or try to snap it in to place. Bring the floss to the gum line then curve it into a C-shape against one tooth (as if the floss is hugging the tooth). Slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth until you feel light resistance. Move the floss up and down on the side of one tooth 3-4 times, flip it and “hug” the other tooth. After 2-3 teeth, let loose of some floss and start with a clean surface of floss.
When you are done, rinse vigorously with water to remove plaque and food particles. Do not be alarmed if during the first week of flossing your gums bleed or are a little sore. If your gums hurt while flossing you could be doing it too hard or pinching the gum. As you flossing becomes routine, your gums will heal and the bleeding should stop.
Can I use a waterpik instead of flossing?
Waterpik or oral irrigators use a pressurized stream of pulsating water to flush away food particles, bacteria, and plaque between teeth and under the gumline. Waterpiks are typically recommended for patients who has braces, bridges, crowns or dental implants. Waterpiks may also be beneficial for those who have loss of dexterity. Waterpiks can be easier to use and help get access to hard-to-reach areas, however, it more cleans out loose food and bacteria.
Flossing is an important part of oral hygiene and home-care recommended for everyone! Incorporating proper flossing techniques into your everyday routine will reduce risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Flossing helps remove bacteria, plaque and food particles from between teeth and remove anything that is adhered to the tooth surface. Although it may be hard to reach certain areas, flossing allows you to manually and meticulously wipe down between each tooth.
*Waterpik is recommended as an adjunct therapy to flossing and not as a replacement.
What is fluoride and do need it?
Fluoride is a mineral in your bones and teeth. It is naturally found in water, soil, plants, and air. Fluoride can also be found in over-the-counter products such as toothpaste, mouth rinses and supplements. It is commonly used in dentistry to strengthen enamel, which is the outer most later of teeth structure. Fluoride also helps prevent cavities, help remineralize tooth surfaces, reverse early signs of decay and help prevent growth of harmful oral bacteria. Fluoride may help with any tooth sensitivity.
Your dental professional recommends to have a fluoride treatment done twice a year. After clinical evaluation, if a patient is at high risk of decay, prescription mouth-rinse or toothpaste may be prescribed for patients to incorporate in their everyday homecare.
Fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses, if used in conjunction with brushing and flossing, can reduce tooth decay as much as 40%!
Does mouthwash help?
Mouthwashes in conjunction with regular brushing and flossing may be used for cavity protection, sensitivity, dry mouth and fresh breath. Mouth rinses should not be used as a replacement to brushing and/or flossing. Your dentist can recommend the best rinses for you.
Children under six years old should not use mouthwash without adult supervision or if the child is unable to swish without swallowing.
What can I do for sensitive teeth?
Sometimes after dental treatment, teeth are sensitive to hot and cold. If the mouth is kept clean, the sensitivity should not last long. If the mouth is not kept clean the sensitivity will remain and could get worse. Over-the-counter toothpaste and mouth rinses may be used to relieve some discomfort. If the sensitivity continues or does not get better consult with your dentist. A prescription strength toothpaste or mouth rinse may be prescribed.
What are sealants?
Sealants are a preventative measure to protect molars and premolars from getting cavities in the natural tiny holes and cracks on biting surfaces of teeth. Sealants are tooth colored and does not require an anesthetic. It is commonly done on kids, however, adults can also get sealants to protect molars from getting cavities. Sealants last about 2-5 years depending on patient’s habits.
Are sweets and ice actually bad for my teeth?
Sweets and foods/drinks high in acidity could stick to teeth and lead to cavities if not clean properly. If teeth are not cleaned properly after eating sticky foods and sweets, the tooth surface may become weakened and a hole or cavity is formed. Foods and drinks that have high acidity may cause tooth erosion over time which weakens the enamel and cause sensitivity.
Although our teeth may seem strong enough to chew ice and open packages, overtime, this can crack or fracture your teeth and put too much stress on your jaw.
When should I bring my child in for their first dental visit and how can I prepare?
First dental visits can be scary for anyone. It is recommended to bring your child in as early as two years old. At the initial visit, we will introduce him/her to basic dental instruments that will be used. Depending on the child’s demeanor the child may have to sit in parent’s lap or we may have parents wait in the waiting room so a rapport relationship can be built between child, dentist and hygienist.
X-rays are typically taken on children ages five years and up, unless he/she presents pain. A thorough examination will be done evaluating x-rays (if taken), gums, teeth and overall oral hygiene. The hygienist will also provide a cleaning and apply topical fluoride to protect the child’s teeth from decay. Proper home care instructions will be review with the child and with the parent/guardian.
To prepare for a child’s first dental visit, read books about going to the dentist, watch “first dental visit” videos, and talk about your own or a sibling’s positive dental experiences.
What are early signs of dental trouble?
-redness of gums
-swelling of face or gums
-bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
-family history of gum disease