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Dental Hygiene

Dental Hygiene

Dental hygiene refers to the practice of personal care and maintenance one provides to maintain a clean, healthy mouth. Generally one can obtain excellent dental hygiene through regular practice of correct brushing and flossing techniques. Proper accomplished, dental hygiene works to prevent the formation of dental plaque;the sticky film of bacteria that forms on the hard surfaces of teeth, responsible for dental decay and gum disease.

Results of good dental hygiene

A healthy-looking and odorless mouth, consisting of:
  • Clean and debris-free teeth.
  • Pink gums that do not hurt or bleed while brushing or flossing.
  • A mouth free from regular episodes of bad breath.

What is the purpose of dental hygiene?

Good dental and oral hygiene helps to:
  • Decrease the formation of dental plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that forms on the hard surfaces of teeth. It is dental plaque that is responsible for tooth decay, tartar, gingivitis and periodontitis or gum disease.
  • Improve your quality of life by preserving teeth responsible for eating,speaking and a beautiful smile.

Symptoms of poor dental hygiene
  • Bleeding or painful gums.
  • Persistent bad breath.
  • Yellow or brown deposits on teeth.
  • Loose teeth and widening gaps between teeth.

Potential consequences of improper oral hygiene

Tooth decay, dental caries, cavities, gum irritation and bad breath - As a result of improper oral hygiene, plaque accumulates on the hard surfaces of teeth when you eat, the bacteria use the sugar and starch from your food and produce acid. This acid:
  • Corrodes the tooth enamel over time and results in holes or cavities in the tooth.
  • Irritates the gums, resulting in bleeding, which leads to bad breath.

The cavities are cleaned and filled with a dental restorative material by the dentists to retain and restore the teeth as well as protect them from further tooth decay. If left untreated, it can result in loss of entire teeth.

Tartar or calculus - Constant accumulation of plaque as a result of irregular brushing and flossing results in the hardening of plaque into a yellow or brown mineral deposit called tartar or calculus. As a result of its crusty and rough surface, teeth then become ideal locations for further plaque growth. Tartar leads to gum disease when it is formed below the gumline.

Gingivitis - This is the initial stage of gum disease and is characterized by:
  • Inflammation of the gums.
  • Painless bleeding during brushing and flossing

If treated with adequate dental care, it is reversible. If ignored, it can lead to a more serious and advanced form of gum disease called periodontitis.

Periodontitis - This is advanced gum disease, which leads to the destruction of structures supporting the teeth, including the bone; this causes the loosening of teeth, requiring their removal as a result. The signs of the condition are red, swollen, bleeding gums that shrink away from the teeth. The resulting widening spaces between the teeth and exposed root surfaces are highly vulnerable to decay.

Proper tooth brushing - oral hygiene
What's the Correct Way to Brush?
  • Place the head of the toothbrush next to your teeth, with the bristle tips at a 45-degree angle next to the gum line.
  • Move the brush back and forth in a small circular scrubbing motion
  • Brush the outer surfaces of all teeth, upper and lower. Make sure you keep the bristles angled against your gum line.
  • Now brush the inside tooth surfaces, using the same brush strokes.
  • To reach the inside surfaces of your front teeth, tilt your brush vertically and use gentle, up and down strokes with the head of the brush.
  • Scrub the chewing surfaces of all back teeth.
Proper tooth brushing - oral hygiene

How do I Remove Plaque by Flossing?
Plaque is a bacteria-laden white substance which forms on the teeth and contributes to tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath. Effective flossing will help remove plaque missed by brushing before it contributes to these harmful effects. Here's how to floss:
  • Use a piece of dental floss approximately 18 inches long. Wind each end of the floss around your middle fingers.
  • Holding the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, leave about an inch of floss. Use a gentle, back and forth motion to guide the floss in between your teeth. Avoid snapping the floss, which may cause unnecessary irritation to the gums.
  • When the floss is at the gum line, curve it into an arc around each tooth until there is mild resistance.
  • Holding the floss in the arc position, gently slide it up the side of the tooth, making sure the floss goes under the gum. Move the floss up and down (not back and forth) several times to remove the plaque from under the gum
  • Repeat this procedure on both sides of each tooth.
Proper dental and oral hygiene will prevent the formation of plaque, which, as explained above, is the main factor that leads to gum disease and tooth decay. Parents must guide children as to the proper dental hygiene methods they should practise daily. You can also seek your dentist's advice about the proper oral and dental hygiene practices to be followed.

Antiseptic mouthwashes Use regularly after brushing and/or flossing to kill plaque-forming bacteria, and especially if you have bad breath.

Fluoride use
Flouride protects and strengthens your teeth by binding with enamel. Use fluoride in toothpaste, fluoridated drinking water or dental treatments, or take a fluoride supplement.

Precautions to be taken in your oral hygiene program

Taking care of your teeth begins in infancy and will be a lifelong concern. There are some precautions that must be taken at various life-stages and under various conditions.
  • Infants – use a moist cloth or a soft toothbrush to wipe the tooth clean. Use only very limited amounts of toothpaste, especially if it contains fluoride, as too much of the ingredient can be toxic to infants.
  • Adults with partial or full dentures or bridges – you must maintain proper dental and oral hygiene as instructed by the dental hygienist or dentist in order to prevent gum disease. Denture users must regularly visit their dentist to realign and adjust the dentures as required to prevent red and swollen gums.

Brushing and flossing precautions:
  • Must be done thoroughly but not too vigorously, as rough movements can irritate or damage sensitive oral tissues.
  • Sore or bleeding gums in the first few days after flossing are normal. However, any bleeding, sore or abnormal condition that last beyond one week should be reported to the dentist.

Prevention
  • Regular visits to the dentist – at least every six months to monitor dental and oral health.
  • Regular professional dental cleaning – fluoride treatments, sealant application and scaling to help to scrape off the hardened plaque (tartar).
  • Diagnostic services – go for X-ray imaging and oral cancer screening.
  • Treatment services - fillings, crowns and bridges to restore and retain teeth.

Healthy eating for healthy teeth

Eating a balanced diet plays an important role in dental health. A balanced diet includes all the main food groups: fruits and vegetables, milk products, meat, fish, etc.

Foods that cause tooth decay:
  • Foods with a high concentration of sugar - cakes, ice cream, honey, etc.
  • Acidic drinks with a low pH value - can damage the tooth enamel.
  • Sticky foods – these do not get washed away from the tooth surface easily by the saliva, hence increasing the exposure of teeth to sugar and acids and, consequently, tooth decay.

Foods that are good for oral health:
  • Foods high in fiber, such as fresh fruits and vegetables - they increase the saliva flow, which neutralises acids, helping to clean the teeth of food particles and sugars during chewing.
  • Rich foods without sugar - milk, yoghurt, rice, meat, fish, fruits, etc.
  • Fruits and vegetables that contain a high volume of water - pears, melons, celery, and cucumbers.

Good eating habits
  • Consume sweets only with main meals and not between meals - saliva production is increased during main meals, thereby neutralising most of the acids and lessening the hazard.
  • Avoid sugary or acidic drinks between meals, and drink milk or water instead.
  • Finish your meal with yellow cheese - this helps neutralise the acids in the mouth, especially after the consumption of sweet foods.
Mother teaching proper oral hygiene