Why is oral hygiene so important? Adults over 35 lose more teeth to gum disease (periodontal disease) than from cavities. Three out of four adults are affected by some form of periodontal disease at some time in their life. The best way to prevent both cavities and periodontal disease is to follow a “daily maintenance routine” of good brushing and flossing techniques.
Periodontal disease and decay are both caused by bacterial plaque. Plaque is a film that constantly forms and sticks to surfaces of your teeth. Thorough brushing and flossing aids in removal of this bacterial film and helps promote healthy teeth and gums.
How to Brush
Dr. Clanton and his hygienists always recommend using a soft to ultra-soft toothbrush for more effective cleaning and protection/gentleness to gum tissue.
While brushing the outside surfaces of your teeth, position your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to the junction of where your gums and teeth meet. Gently move your toothbrush in a circular motion several times using small gentle strokes. Use light pressure while putting the bristles between your teeth, but not so much pressure that you feel any discomfort.
When you are finished cleaning the outside surfaces of all your teeth, follow the same procedure while cleaning the inside surfaces of the back teeth.
To clean the inside surfaces of the upper and lower front teeth, hold your toothbrush vertically. Make several gentle back-and-forth strokes over each tooth along with gently brushing surrounding gum tissue.
Next, to clean the biting surfaces of your teeth, with your toothbrush use short gentle strokes in a back-and-forth motion. Change the position of your toothbrush as often as necessary to reach and clean each tooth surface. Try to watch yourself in the mirror to make sure you effectively clean all surfaces. After brushing is completed, rinse vigorously to remove any plaque that might have been loosened while brushing.
How to Floss
Periodontal disease often appears between the teeth where it is difficult for your toothbrush to reach. Flossing is a very effective way to remove plaque from these surfaces. Flossing takes time and practice, therefore it is important to learn and develop proper flossing technique.
Start with a piece of floss that is 18-20 inches long. Lightly wrap most of the floss around your middle finger of one hand followed by wrapping the remaining floss around the middle finger of your other hand.
To clean your upper teeth, hold the floss tightly between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Gently insert the floss between your teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Be careful not to force the floss or try to snap it into place. Bring the floss to the gum line curving it into a C-shape against one 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 in a scraping motion. Remember there are two tooth surfaces that need to be cleaned by your floss in each space. Continue to floss each side of all of your upper teeth while being careful not to cut your gum tissue between teeth. As the floss becomes soiled, wind from one finger to the other to access a clean area of floss.
To clean between your lower teeth, follow the same technique guiding the floss using the forefinger of each hand. Also remember to floss the back side of the last tooth on both sides, upper and lower.
When flossing is completed, rinse vigorously with water to remove plaque and loosened food particles. Do not be alarmed if during the first week or two of flossing, your gums bleed or are a little sore. As you continue to floss daily and remove plaque, any bleeding should stop and your gums will heal and feel more comfortable.
Daily brushing and flossing will help remove plaque and keep dental calculus (tartar) to a minimum, but a professional cleaning by Dr. Clanton’s hygienist will help with removal of plaque and calculus in places your toothbrush and floss have missed. Your visit to our office for exam and cleaning is an important part of your program in preventing gum disease, maintaining your smile, and keeping your teeth healthy.
Please contact our office at 423-929-7146 if you have any questions or concerns about your oral hygiene, brushing and flossing techniques, or to schedule an appointment.
Choosing Oral Hygiene Products
There are so many products on the market that it may become confusing and difficult to make a choice as to what is best for each patient’s personal dental care needs.
Automatic and high-tech electronic toothbrushes are effective, safe and beneficial for the majority of our patients. Oral irrigators (water spraying devices) will help with rinsing your mouth thoroughly but will not remove all plaque – brushing and flossing are also necessary in conjunction with their use. Frequently, patients undergoing orthodontic treatment, periodontal treatment, and those with dexterity limits find these devices extremely helpful in maintaining their oral care.
Toothbrushes with soft or ultra-soft bristles are always recommended for our patients. Some toothbrushes have a rubber tip on the handle – this is used to massage the gums after brushing and to clean the gum margins around crowns, bridges, and in between teeth where periodontal pocket depth may exist. There are also tiny brushes (interproximal toothbrushes) that help clean areas between your teeth. These special brushes can be very effective – consult with Dr. Clanton’s hygienists about proper use.
When used in conjunction with brushing and flossing, fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses can reduce tooth decay as much as 40% and help control tooth sensitivity. These are not recommended for children under six years of age. Tartar control toothpastes have been proven to reduce tartar above the gum line, but have not actually been proven to reduce periodontal disease (gum disease starts below the gum line). Anti-plaque mouth rinses, approved by the American Dental Association, do contain agents that may help bring early gum disease under control when used along with brushing and flossing.
Our hygienists will be happy to assist you in evaluation of your dental health needs and selection of oral hygiene products.
Good nutrition plays a large role in your overall dental health. Brushing and flossing help keep your teeth and gums healthy and strong. However, a balanced diet will help to boost your body’s immune system and leave you less vulnerable to oral health problems.
Your dental health is affected by how often and what you eat. Eating starchy foods such as crackers, bread, cookies, and candy provides a food source that is more easily metabolized by bacteria that exists in your mouth. By-products of this bacterial metabolism are acids which attack your teeth for up to 20 minutes or more following food consumption. Foods that stick to your teeth such as granola bars, chewy fruit snacks, dried fruit, and hard candy are slow to dissolve and allow for more “acidic attack time” to work on destroying tooth enamel and causing decay. When eaten as part of a meal, these sticky and starchy foods create less acid. Saliva production increases at mealtime rinsing away food particles and neutralizing harmful acids. Foods such as nuts, cheese, certain vegetables, and some teas have been shown to slow the growth of decay-causing bacteria in the mouth.
Dr. Clanton’s hygienists have training in nutritional counseling and will be happy to work with you regarding your diet, nutritional needs, and dental health.