Oral Hygiene is the practice of keeping the mouth clean.
Oral hygiene is a means of preventing cavities (dental caries), gingivitis, periodontitis, bad breath (halitosis), and other dental disorders. When we talk about oral hygiene, we mean both the personal and professional
First, here’s what you should know !
Dental plaque is a biofilm (usually of a clear color) that builds up on the teeth. If not removed regularly, it can lead to dental cavities (caries) or periodontal problems (such as gingivitis).
The bacteria present in dental plaque are all naturally present in the oral cavity, and are normally harmless. However, failure to remove plaque by regular toothbrushing means that they are allowed to build up in a thick layer. Those microorganisms produce acids which consequently lead to demineralization of the adjacent tooth surface, and dental caries. Plaque build up can also become mineralized and form calculus.
The frequency of brushing and flossing with good technique is very important, as is the use of fluoridated mouthwash, and regular dental check-ups during which professional dental cleaning is performed.
Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums (gingivae) around the teeth. Gingivitis may be caused by a build up of plaque and tartar due to improper cleaning of teeth, or by injury to the gums from over-vigorous brushing and/or flossing. The condition is generally reversible. Brushing teeth thoroughly, but gently, with toothpaste and flossing with dental floss are the best ways to prevent gingivitis.
The symptoms of gingivitis are as follows:
– Swollen gums
– Mouth sores
– Bright-red, or purple gums
– Shiny gums
– Gums that are painless, except when pressure is applied
– Gums that bleed easily, even with gentle brushing
– Gums that itch with varying degrees of severity
– Receding gumline
Gingivitis is usually caused by bacterial plaque that accumulates in the spaces between the gums and the teeth and in calculus (tartar) that forms on the teeth. This bacteria produces damaging byproducts that cause gingival swelling and inflammation. This inflammation can, over the years, cause deep pockets between the teeth and gums and loss of bone around teeth otherwise known as Periodontitis.
The sudden onset of gingivitis in a normal, healthy person should be considered an alert to the possibility of an underlying viral aetiology, although most systemically healthy individuals have gingivitis in some area of their mouth, usually due to inadequate brushing and flossing.
Gingivitis can be prevented through regular oral hygiene that includes daily brushing and flossing. It is also recommended that your dentist be seen after the signs of gingivitis appear. The dentist will check for the symptoms of gingivitis, and may also examine the amount of plaque in the oral cavity, and will perform a thorough cleaning of the teeth and gums; following this, persistent oral hygiene is necessary. The dentist may also test for periodontitis using X-rays or gingival probing as well as other methods.
The removal of plaque is usually not painful, and the inflammation of the gums should be gone between one and two weeks. Oral hygiene including proper brushing and flossing is required to prevent the recurrence of gingivitis. Anti-bacterial rinses or mouthwash, in particular Chlorhexidine digluconate 0.2% solution, may reduce the swelling and local mouth gels which are usually antiseptic and anaesthetic can also help.
So, what can you do to maintain proper oral hygiene ?
Careful and frequent brushing with a toothbrush and flossing help to prevent or reduce build-up of plaque and calculus which is believed to lead to cavities and gum disease.
Special appliances or tools may be recommended to supplement (but not to replace) toothbrushing and flossing.
These include special toothpicks, water irrigation, or other devices. Initially electric toothbrushes were only recommended for persons who have problems with strength or dexterity of their hands, but many dentists are now recommending them to many other patients in order to improve their home dental care. In many parts of the world natural toothbrushes are also used.
Your dentist can instruct you and demonstrate to you the proper brushing and flossing techniques. Just ask !
Regular Professional Dental Cleaning
Regular cleaning by your dentist is recommended to remove tartar (mineralized plaque) that may develop even with careful brushing and flossing, especially in areas that are difficult for a patient to reach on his own at home. Professional cleaning includes scaling and polishingand debridement if too much tartar has accumulated.
Visit Your Dentist Twice A Year..
Your dentist plays a crucial role in the prevention of gum disease. Although some people experience bleeding gums, loose teeth, or bad breath when they have gum disease, for others, gum disease is often “silent”. This means they may not experience any pain or other symptoms until significant damage has occurred!
During routine checkups, your dentist can detect gum disease early and remove tartar build up. Early intervention can effectively treat gum disease, protecting your health.
Most dentists recommend having the teeth professionally cleaned at least every six months. More frequent cleaning and examination may be necessary during the treatment of many of the dental/oral disorders. Routine examination of the teeth is recommended at least once a year. This may include annual selected dental X-rays.
However, in between professional cleanings , everyone must have good oral hygiene to support the professional care.
Tips to Eliminate Bad Breath !
Brush and Floss Your Teeth Properly
Brushing and flossing are two of the most crucial elements for attacking bad breath. Bad breath is caused by bacteria which live on our teeth and gums. These bacteria feast on food particles left on our teeth creating volatile sulfur compounds (VSC). These sulfur compounds give breath its foul odor.
Brushing and flossing remove bacteria and the food bacteria feast on so that they can no longer create volatile sulfur compounds. Unfortunately, many people do not brush long enough to remove bacteria from their teeth. It takes 2-3 minutes to brush all tooth surfaces yet most people spend less than a minute brushing their teeth.
Worse yet, few people take the time to floss allowing odor producing bacteria to grow rampantly in the spaces between your teeth. Brushing without flossing is like washing only 70% of your body when you bathe – the other 30% remains dirty !
Clean Your Tongue !
While brushing and flossing are crucial first steps, brushing and flossing do not always eliminate bad breath. This is because odor causing bacteria hide deep within the crevices of the tongue.
Ironically, many of these bacteria are anaerobic meaning they can not live in oxygen. How do these bacteria live in the mouth then ? They live safe from oxygen under a protective layer of mucous, food particles and proteins .
Cleaning your tongue with a tongue cleaner can remove this layer and much of the bacteria which resides on your tongue. Remember to clean near the back of the tongue where most of the bacteria resides but be careful not to gag yourself.
Drink Plenty of Water
A dry mouth represents the ideal home for odor causing bacteria which flourish in this type of environment. Saliva normally keeps the mouth moist. Additionally, saliva helps wash away the food particles bacteria feed on and dissolves odorous volatile sulfur compounds. Actions which dry the mouth or reduce saliva flow can increase bad breath odor. These include:
* The use of prescription medications including antihistamines and decongestants
* Excessive talking
* Drinking alcohol or using mouthwashes containing a high amount of alcohol
By drinking water we stimulate saliva flow, wash away left-over food particles, and moisten the mouth making it less hospitable to odor causing bacteria.
Use Anti-bacterial Mouthwashes
Mouthwashes containing chlorine dioxide are the latest advance against bad breath. In these mouthwashes the chlorine dioxide directly attacks the volatile sulfur compounds responsible for bad breath.
Conventional mouthwashes at best only temporarily mask bad breath odor. At worst, conventional mouthwashes can make the situation worse by drying out the mouth making it more hospitable to odor producing bacteria.
Chew Sugar-Free Gum !
If you can’t brush after a meal or snack consider chewing sugarless gum. This chewing action helps cleanse the teeth and stimulates the flow of saliva. Saliva in turn further helps to cleanse the mouth and dissolves odorous volatile sulfur compounds. Make sure, however, to use gum which does not contain sugar .
Check for Signs of Gingivitis and Other Dental Problems
Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection of the gums and ligaments which support the teeth. Periodontal disease creates new hiding spots in the gums for odor causing bacteria. Signs that you may have periodontal disease include:
* Red or swollen gums
* Loose teeth
* Sensitive teeth
* Pus coming from around the teeth
* Pain on chewing
* Tender gums
* Bleeding gums.
When dentists treat periodontal disease they can eliminate the bad breath associated with it.
And finally remember..
..Have A Regular Dental Check-up At Least Twice A Year..