Every tooth you have is more valuable than a diamond.
With proper care, your teeth and gums can stay healthy throughout your life. The healthier your teeth and gums are, the less risk you are prone to tooth decay and gum disease.
What are the signs of poor oral hygiene? (1)
There are several warning signs that could indicate oral health problems. The most common symptoms of poor oral hygiene include:
- Bleeding gums.
- Tooth decay.
- Chronic bad breath.
- Loose teeth.
- Gum recession.
- Mouth sores that don’t go away.
- Swelling of the jaw.
- Gingivostomatitis is an infection of the mouth caused by certain bacteria or viruses.
How Should I Care for My Teeth and Gums? (2)
There are four basic steps to caring for teeth and gums:
4. Eating right
5. Visiting the dentist
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush. The size and shape of your brush should fit your mouth, allowing you to reach all areas easily. (3)
- Replace your toothbrush every three or four months if the bristles are frayed sooner. A worn toothbrush won’t do an excellent job of cleaning your teeth.
The proper brushing technique is to:(3)
- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
- Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes.
- Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.
Electric toothbrushes clean teeth and gums much better than a manual toothbrush, according to the findings of a new study.
Scientists found that people who use an electric toothbrush have healthier gums, less tooth decay, and also keep their teeth for longer, compared with those who use a manual toothbrush. (4)
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Flossing is an important oral hygiene habit. It cleans and dislodges food stuck between your teeth, which reduces the number of bacteria and plaque in your mouth. Plaque is a sticky film that builds on teeth and contributes to cavities and gum disease.
- Break off about 18 to 24 inches of dental floss. To hold the floss correctly, wind most of the floss around both of your middle fingers. Leave only about 1 to 2 inches of floss for your teeth.
- Next, hold the floss taut with your thumbs and index fingers.
- Place the dental floss in between two teeth. Gently glide the floss up and down, rubbing it against both sides of each tooth. Don’t glide the floss into your gums. This can scratch or bruise your gums.
- As the floss reaches your gums, curve the floss at the base of the tooth to form a C shape. This allows the floss to enter the space between your gums and tooth.
- Repeat the steps as you move from tooth to tooth. With each tooth, use a new, clean section of floss.
Some dental floss is easier to use in more expansive spaces, whereas other types of floss are easier to use in tighter spaces.
Different types of dental floss include:(5)
- Dental tape. This type of dental floss is broader and flat like a ribbon, making it easier to handle if you have braces, gaps, or large spaces between your teeth.
- Standard floss. This is a thin nylon strand that can fit in between teeth. It comes flavored or unflavored as well as waxed or unwaxed. If your teeth are crowded or closer together, dental floss with a wax coating can make it easier to get in between them.
- Super flosses. This dental floss threader can work with braces, bridges, and gaps. It has three components: a stiffened end for flossing underneath appliances, spongy floss to clean around your devices, and regular floss to eliminate plaque underneath your gum line.
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You may prefer to use a Waterpik instead of floss if you:(6)
- Wear braces
- Have nonremovable bridgework
- Have crowns
- Have dental implants
- A Waterpik may also be easier to use than standard floss for people with arthritis or for anyone who finds string floss challenging to maneuver and work with.
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The third part of your daily oral care routine should be mouthwash -- but not just any mouthwash(1)
- Rinse a mouthwash daily with an antiseptic (also known as antibacterial) to help kill bacteria that cause plaque, early gum disease, and bad breath.
- Fluoride-containing mouthwash helps prevent tooth decay. Some mouthwashes have both antibacterial ingredients and fluoride.
- Swish the rinse around in your mouth for 30 to 60 seconds.
- You can use a mouthwash before or after you brush and floss.
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4. Eating right
For good dental health, eat various foods, avoiding those that contain sugars and starches. These foods produce the most acids in the mouth, and the longer they stay, the more they can damage the teeth. Hard "sucking candies" are especially harmful because they remain in the mouth long.
Snacking on sugary foods can lead to tooth decay because most people don't brush after snacks. Starchy snack foods, like potato chips, stick to the teeth. Avoid snacking on:(1)
- Candies, cookies, cakes, and pie
- Sugary gum
- Crackers, breadsticks, and chips
- Dried fruits and raisins
You can control gum bleeding by taking vitamin C daily
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5. Visiting the dentist
Visit your dentist at least once every six months. To maintain healthy teeth and gums, regular check-ups and professional cleanings are essential. You should also see your dentist if you have pain in your teeth, mouth, bleeding, or swollen gums.
What conditions are linked to oral health?
Research shows that gingivitis and periodontitis can contribute to specific health conditions, including (1)
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Endocarditis (infection of your heart’s inner lining).
- Pregnancy complications, such as premature birth and low birth weight.
Conversely, certain health conditions can have a negative impact on your teeth and gums, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease.
If you or a loved one has any of the conditions listed above, ask your dentist how to promote and support overall health through proper oral hygiene.
Your mouth needs saliva to be able to work correctly. Saliva keeps your mouth moist, and it helps to break down your food and helps you to swallow. It also acts as a cleanser. It is constantly washing around your mouth and teeth, fighting tooth decay, and helping to keep your teeth clean. A dry mouth or ‘xerostomia' is a condition that affects the flow of saliva, causing your mouth to feel dry. (7)
How can I tell I have a dry mouth?
There are several symptoms to watch out for. The most obvious one is, of course, a dry mouth. Some people feel their saliva has become thick and sticky, making it difficult to speak or swallow. Some people also have a ‘prickly' or burning sensation in their mouth and become sensitive to certain foods. The mouth can become sore, and there is a higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease. In some cases, the mouth can also become red and shiny. If you have any of these symptoms it doesn't necessarily mean that you have a dry mouth. But it may be best to talk to your dental team or doctor about it. (7)
Lots of minor signs can show that you have bad breath. Have you noticed people stepping away from you when you start to talk? Do people turn their cheek when you kiss them goodbye?
If you think you might have bad breath, there is a simple test that you can do. Just lick the inside of your wrist and sniff - if the smell is terrible, you can be sure your breath is too.
Some medical problems can also cause bad breath. 'Dry mouth (xerostomia)
If you suffer from dry mouth, your dental team may be able to recommend or prescribe an artificial saliva product. Or they may be able to suggest other ways of dealing with the problem. (8)
If you do have bad breath, you will need to start a routine for keeping your mouth clean and fresh. Regular check-ups will allow your dentist to watch out for places where plaque is caught between your teeth. Your dental team will be able to clean all those areas that are difficult to reach. They will also be able to show you the best way to clean your teeth and gum and show you any areas you may be missing, including your tongue.
Can I prevent bad breath? (8)
To keep your breath fresh, you must get rid of gum disease and keep your mouth clean and fresh. If you have bad breath, try keeping a diary of all the foods you eat and list any medicines you take. Take this diary to your dentist, who may be able to suggest ways to solve the problem.
- Brush your teeth and gums last thing at night and at least once during the day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Don't forget to brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper. Cut down on how often you have sugary food and drinks.
- Visit your dental team regularly, as often as they recommend.
- Clean in between your teeth with ‘interdental' brushes or floss at least once a day - brushing alone only cleans up to about 60 percent of the surface of your teeth. There are other products you can buy to clean your teeth.
- Use a mouthwash - some contain antibacterial agents that could kill bacteria that make your breath smell unpleasant.
Dental veneers (sometimes called porcelain veneers or dental porcelain laminates) are wafer-thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the front surface of teeth to improve your appearance. These shells are bonded to the front of the teeth changing their color, shape, size, or length. (9)
Veneers are routinely used to fix:(9)
- Teeth that are discolored because of:
- Root canal treatment
- Stains from tetracycline or other drugs
- Excessive fluoride
- Large resin fillings
- Other causes
- Teeth that are worn down
- Teeth that are chipped or broken
- Teeth that are misaligned, uneven, or irregularly shaped (for example, have craters or bulges in them)
- Teeth with gaps between them (to close the space between these teeth)
Veneers offer these advantages:(9)
- They provide a natural tooth appearance.
- Gums tolerate porcelain well.
- Porcelain veneers are stain-resistant.
- A color can be selected to make dark teeth appear whiter.
- They generally don't require as much shaping as crowns, yet they are more robust and look better.
Veneers typically last between 7 and 15 years. After this time, the surfaces would need to be replaced.
1. Oral Hygiene: Best Practices & Instructions for Good Routine [Internet]. [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16914-oral-hygiene
2. Teeth and Gum Care: Tips for Proper Brushing And Flossing [Internet]. [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/teeth-gum-care
3. Brush Teeth - American Dental Association [Internet]. [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/brushing-your-teeth
4. Pitchika V, Pink C, Völzke H, Welk A, Kocher T, Holtfreter B. Long-term impact of powered toothbrush on oral health: 11-year cohort study. Journal of Clinical Periodontology [Internet]. 2019 Jul 1 [cited 2022 Aug 15];46(7):713–22. Available from: https://www.dentalhealth.org/news/electric-toothbrushes-win-the-head-to-head-against-manual-in-record-breaking-new-study
5. How to Floss Properly: Step-by-Step Guide to Flossing Teeth [Internet]. [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-floss#how-to-floss
6. Mazhari F, Boskabady M, Moeintaghavi A, Habibi A. The effect of toothbrushing and flossing sequence on interdental plaque reduction and fluoride retention: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of Periodontology [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2022 Aug 15];89(7):824–32. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/waterpik-vs-flossing
7. Dry mouth - Oral Health Foundation [Internet]. [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from: https://www.dentalhealth.org/dry-mouth
8. Bad Breath - Oral Health Foundation [Internet]. [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from: https://www.dentalhealth.org/bad-breath
9. Dental Veneers: Porcelain Veneer Uses, Procedure, and More [Internet]. [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/veneers#1