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Posted on: October 21, 2020
Dental Care Basics
Taking care of your teeth and gums doesn’t only ensure that your mouth is healthy, it also ensures that your overall health is maintained. Good oral health allows you to eat, speak, drink and smile properly. It also reduces your risk of developing conditions such as pneumonia, different types of cancers and cardiovascular disease.
Knowing the basic elements of dental health care will keep your mouth and your body healthy for a long time to come.
What to Do About Plaque
Plaque is the underlying cause of issues like tooth decay, cavities and periodontal (gum) disease. It is a sticky, film-like substance that attaches to the teeth after eating and drinking. This substance is full of bacteria that release plaque acids that attack the outer covering of the teeth (enamel). While enamel is hard, repeated attacks from the acids will leave teeth weak and susceptible to developing cavities.
Brushing and flossing on a daily basis helps to remove plaque and prevent it from building up on the surface of your teeth and along your gumline. Once it begins to build up, it will harden into tartar deposits or calculus. If left unaddressed, the build-up will cause gum inflammation (gingivitis).
Gingivitis is the primary cause behind adults having gums that bleed. It is estimated that approximately 75 percent of people living in the United States will develop this condition at some point within their lives. Gingivitis can be reversed if it is caught in its earliest stages.
Considered to be the first stage of gum disease, gingivitis usually doesn’t cause people to feel any pain until it has progressed into a more advanced stage. Allowing plaque to continue to build up on the teeth and gumline will cause gingivitis to advance into periodontitis. This is a more severe version of gum disease and can cause you to lose your teeth.
You may have gingivitis if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Gums that feel sore or tender
- Swollen, dark red or purple gums
- Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
- Foul-smelling breath that resists treatment
- Teeth that feel sensitive to hot and cold
- Loose teeth
- A change in your bite
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should book an appointment with your dentist immediately. He or she will be able to remove the build-up of tartar and plaque from your teeth and gums.
Learning About Cavities
Plaque also causes tooth decay and cavities. The bacteria harbored within plaque release acids that dissolve enamel and dentin. This causes permanent damage to the teeth in the form of tiny holes known as cavities. These cavities will grow deeper and affect the inner layers of the teeth, causing a toothache, infection and tooth loss.
Most people associate cavities with children; however, it is important to understand that older adults and even infants can develop cavities. Signs that you may have a cavity include:
- Teeth that are sensitive to sweet, hot or cold foods and drinks
- Random toothaches with no discernible cause
- Pain while biting or chewing
- Visible holes or pits in the teeth
The majority of people don’t notice any symptoms when cavities are small. That’s why it’s important to see your dentist on a regular basis for checkups and cleanings. Not treating a cavity can lead to bacterial infections that can spread to the root of the tooth. This causes abscesses, as well as serious, potentially life-threatening, complications to occur.
The Basics of a Great At-home Oral Hygiene Routine
One of the best ways of preventing issues related to plaque is to establish a good oral hygiene routine at home. Your dentist will be able to give you more individualized tips, but the below is a good starting point.
Brushing: Brushing your teeth twice a day with an electric or soft-bristled toothbrush is the first step to achieving excellent oral health. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you brush for at least two minutes while utilizing a fluoride toothpaste. Other brushing tips include:
- Removing odor-causing bacteria by brushing your tongue
- Changing your toothbrush whenever you have had a mouth infection or have been ill
- Replacing your toothbrush whenever the bristles are worn or every three months
Flossing: Utilizing proper flossing techniques after brushing your teeth is a great way to get rid of plaque and food particles in between your teeth and under your gumline. These areas can’t be reached by a toothbrush, so daily flossing will ensure that you are doing all that you can in order to prevent bad breath, tooth decay and tartar buildup.
Mouthwash: After you’ve brushed and flossed, you should swish around an antibacterial mouth rinse for a minimum of 30 seconds. This removes the bacteria that causes halitosis, tooth decay and gum disease. You should use a rinse that has been ADA approved.
Healthy eating and drinking: In addition to the above, you should also eat a balanced diet. The ADA has found that diets full of carbohydrates, sugars and starches actually increase the amount of plaque acids released in the mouth. Another thing you can do is to drink water with fluoride.
How Seeing the Same Dentist Regularly Benefits You
There are many benefits to seeing your dentist on a regular basis. One of the most beneficial aspects of having regular checkups and cleanings is that your dentist will come to know your dental and medical history. He or she will also be able to catch issues early on when they are easier to treat.
Most dentists recommend that you come in for checkups and cleanings twice a year. People who have special dental care needs may need to schedule visits on a more frequent basis. The first thing your dentist will do during your checkup is to examine your teeth, mouth and gums for any signs of cavities, gum disease, bruxism, changes in your bite, etc. Once this has been completed, your dentist may take X-rays of your mouth to see if there are any issues in areas that can’t be seen during this examination.
Oral cancer screenings are another reason why you should see your dentist twice a year. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, oral cancer makes up about 3% of all cancers that are diagnosed every year in the United States. This potentially fatal disease is twice as likely to develop in men than in women. Smokers and those who drink alcohol are also at a higher risk of being diagnosed with oral cancer.
Achieve Excellent Oral Health
Establishing consistent at-home oral health care habits, as well as seeing your dentist twice a year will ensure that your mouth stays healthy and happy. You can book an appointment with one of our dentists online or via the phone.