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Do you know the proper brushing technique?

One of the best ways to ensure healthy teeth and gums is with a good home care program. Proper brushing and flossing is the one way you can make sure you are doing what you can to protect your mouth. Proper brushing consists of about two minutes of concentrated brushing. A quick brush may make your mouth feel fresh, but will do very little to remove the plaque that normally develops during the course of the day. Be sure to cover all areas of the teeth, inside, outside on the biting surfaces and along the gum line as well. Since plaque is the substance responsible for tooth decay, a good brushing at least twice a day will help to prevent both. Because plaque forms every twelve hours brushing twice a day is very important in order to prevent the plaque from turning into an even more irritating substance known as calculus.


Once calculus has formed on the teeth your dentist or hygienist can only remove it. A soft round bristled toothbrush is the best to use since it won’t scrub away the enamel on your teeth nor irritate the gums. Gently massage your gums while brushing, this helps to clean them as well as increasing circulation in the area which is helpful in the prevention of gum disease. A good home care program which consists of brushing and flossing upon rising, before going to bed and after every meal, along with regular visits to your family dentist for a check up and cleaning will certainly help you in keeping your teeth and gums healthy.

What are the benefits of flossing?

One of the major causes of tooth loss today is due to periodontal disease or gingivitis as it is commonly called. Gum disease is caused by tartar. Tartar is what plaque turns into when it is not removed. One of the most difficult areas from which to remove plaque is in between the teeth. Because plaque turns into tartar literally overnight it is very important to floss daily in order to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Also, flossing aids in the prevention of cavities. A good time to floss is while watching TV. Once you get the hang of flossing, you don’t need a mirror to see what you are doing.

When flossing be careful not to snap the floss up through the teeth as you can cut your gums that way. Use a gentle sawing motion to work the floss between the teeth, when you reach the gum line curve the floss against the wall of the tooth to remove the plaque. If your gums bleed initially do not be alarmed. If you have not been flossing regularly the gums need to be conditioned. Tenderness after flossing the first several times is normal as well. Warm saltwater rinses will help to relieve this tenderness. Bleeding and tender gums are an indication of gum disease, if these symptoms persist after one week of daily flossing is sure to contact your dentist for proper treatment. Periodontal disease will not go away by itself and can cause serious problems in the mouth due to bone loss and resulting loss of teeth. A good home care program along with routine dental visits will certainly do much to ensure a lifelong healthy smile.

Do you suffer from tooth sensitivities?

If occasionally you experience discomfort due to either hot or cold foods, or cold air hitting the teeth you may have a dental problem. Some people have very thin enamel, cracks in enamel or have worn away enamel due to improper brushing or an improper dental bite. If your teeth are very sensitive, let your dentist know so that it can be properly treated.

How can you beat bad breath?

Nothing can defeat a first impression easier than bad breath. Most of the time, you don’t even know you have a problem until someone tells you making it even more embarrassing. Some people tend to think that using the right mouthwash will solve their troubles. But generally speaking, a mouthwash will only sweeten your breath for just a short time. The real problem behind recurring bad breath is the presence of plaque on your teeth. The plaque contains bacteria, a key factor in bad breath. If you have a problem with your breath, you may not be doing the proper oral hygiene at home. At least twice a day, your teeth require a 2 1⁄2 to 3-minute brushing. flossing should be done as well to loosen the plaque between your teeth. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, that could be a sign of gum disease. Gums that bleed are not normal. Regular dental examinations allow for early detection of dental problems.

Bad breath can also be caused by sinus and stomach problems. A determination can be made by your dentist.

Should I use mouthwash?

Mouthwash does not prevent tooth decay. A fluoride rinse however is a good addition to a thorough brushing and flossing routine. Plaque reacts with sugars and starches to form an acid, which breaks down the minerals in the enamel of the teeth, thereby causing a cavity. Mouthwashes with fluorides in them will work together with your saliva to help your teeth ward off cavities. Adding a fluoride rinse to a to a thorough brushing routine along with the fluoride treatments your dentist can provide will help to keep your teeth healthy.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a nutrient, which our bodies need for growth and development. Fluoride helps to reduce dental decay. (When fluoride is taken internally during the time that the teeth are being formed, it is incorporated into the enamel of the teeth thereby helping to make the teeth less prone to decay). Once teeth are formed in the mouth however, fluoride taken internally no longer has any effects on the tooth structure. At this point fluoridated toothpaste’s and rinses will work with your saliva on the enamel of the teeth, helping to re-mineralize any enamel that has been broken down. Plaque and sugars work with each other to create an acid, which causes decay.

Using fluoridated toothpaste together with limiting sugary foods will also help to prevent decay. Fluoride is also effective in decreasing sensitivity of teeth. A fluoride toothpaste or rinse can be used at home as a remedy for sensitive teeth. If the sensitivity continues for more than two weeks, please call your dentist. Your dentist can also administer fluoride in a stronger form. This treatment is also effective for teeth, which are sensitive at the gum line. Fluoride has been a big help in reducing dental decay.

Healthy food makes healthy teeth.

Foods both dental and nutritionally recommended are high in nutrients and low in sugar. In other words, you should try to eat the foods that will do the most for your teeth and body. For better dental health stick to the foods that are high in nutritional value. Whether these foods are chosen as part of a meal or an in between meal snack, these types of foods will contribute greatly to your daily nutritional needs.

Eat properly and use the traffic light system with go, caution and stop foods. Some of the go foods include milk, eggs, yogurt Melba toast, peanuts and cheese. Milk acts as an acid inhibitor when combined with starches such as cereal and works against the potential acid production of the cereal. If milk is used to wash away sweets they will not have as harmful an effect. Certain cheese such as cheddar are a good preventive food because of its sharpness, it increases salivary flow.

Your food choices can prevent cavities.

Plaque, which is a sticky film that coats our teeth during the day, has thousands of bacteria, which interact with the foods we eat and cause cavities. By limiting the diet of certain types of foods which are the biggest causes of decay you can help to limit the number of cavities you may get. The bacteria in plaque feed on the sugars and starch we eat to form an acid, which breaks down the enamel of the teeth and forms cavities. Since dental healthy foods also contain sugars it is impossible to remove all sugar and starch from the diet. Sugars and starches should be eaten with a main meal, after which a thorough brushing will remove any left over food particles. If a place to brush is not handy, rinse the mouth with water, this too will help to remove some of the sugars and food particles.

An important key to dental health is calcium. Children and teenagers need more calcium than adults to help in the formation of strong, healthy teeth and bones. Pregnant women also require extra calcium in order for their baby’s teeth and bones to form properly. Milk products are very high in calcium as is spinach and canned salmon. Children are just as prone to cavities as adults are. It is not good to allow your child to nurse on a bottle with milk or fruit juice for extended periods of time because the sugars will decay the teeth. Keep snacking at a minimum and definitely clean your teeth afterwards. A good diet along with regular visits to the dentist will help to keep your teeth healthy.

What is plaque?

Plaque is a sticky, soft invisible film that forms on surfaces of your teeth. The bacteria, which make up the plaque, react with sugars and starches in foods to produce an acid. It’s the acid that dissolves tooth enamel and begins the decaying process. After repeated acid attacks, and if plaque is not removed daily, the enamel eventually breaks down and decays – thus a cavity is formed.

The irritants in plaque also cause inflammation of the gums making them tender and prone to bleeding. This is the first stage of periodontal disease. If you don’t remove the soft plaque, it will mix with saliva and harden. Once this takes place, brushing will not take the film off your teeth and your dentist or dental hygienist must remove the tartar. To keep plaque under control, brush and floss at least twice a day. Visiting your dentist for regular examinations also play a large role in the prevention process.

What concerns are there regarding tongue piercing?

Tongue piercing is becoming more common. Like other forms of body piercing, it carries serious risks during the procedure itself. These include the risk of local or systemic infection. Local infection can occur because the mouth is hard to sterilize and many places that pierce tongues do not always maintain a sterile environment.

Systemic infection is always a possibility and includes the risk of hepatitis and AIDS. The rinsing with mouthwash may not take care of an infection if it is serious. It is important to remember that piercing establishments are not regulated by law nor are the operators licensed. The operator’s experience and competence can vary and are not guaranteed. Like other forms of body piercing, tongue piercing also can result in an allergy if the metals used are not of the highest quality.

Unlike other forms of piercing, the tongue also caries the increased risk of bleeding problems. The tongue has major blood vessels within it and many operators are not aware of this. The jewelry may also be swallowed if loosened and result in choking.

In addition, tongue piercing also caries the risk of damage to the surrounding teeth. The hard jewelry can chip and break the enamel or fillings of the teeth as one talks and eats. This damage can also result in the death of the tooth’s inner pulp if the trauma to the tooth is chronic. This tooth damage may result in the need for crowns to restore a smile or even a root canal to keep the tooth. These are important matters to consider before undergoing tongue piercing. If there is a problem after tongue piercing, it is important not only to contact the piercing establishment, but your physician and dentist as needed. Your smile and your health are important in the long run!

Margaret J. Fehrenbach, RDH, MS Educational Consultant

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