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Posted on: October 8, 2020
Dental Care Basics
According to the Mayo Clinic, the overall condition of your oral health plays a vital role in your overall health. This means that keeping up excellent oral hygiene routines at home and seeing your dentist on a regular basis are key elements when it comes keeping your mouth healthy. Maintaining excellent oral health also assists in reducing your chances of developing conditions like pneumonia, cardiovascular disease and different types of cancers.
Educating yourself on the basics of dental care can help to keep your smile happy and healthy for a long time to come.
Understanding Plaque Attacks
Plaque is a sticky, clear substance that forms on your teeth. This film is full of the bacteria that cause both tooth decay and gum disease. Whenever you eat or drink substances that contain sugar or starch, this bacteria releases acid that works to wear down the enamel of your teeth. While enamel is an exceptionally hard tissue, plaque can weaken it significantly, leaving your teeth more prone to developing cavities.
You can remove plaque by brushing and flossing your teeth daily. This keeps the plaque from building up on the surface of the teeth and along your gumline. Failing to remove the plaque can cause it to harden into tartar deposits or calculus. This can eventually lead to the inflammation of the gums, which is also called gingivitis.
Gingivitis & How to Prevent It
Approximately 75 percent of Americans are affected by gingivitis at some point in their lives. This common condition is the main cause of bleeding gums in adults. It is also the initial stage of gum (periodontal) disease. However, gingivitis is completely reversible if it is caught early enough.
Since gingivitis usually doesn’t cause any pain, most people don’t even realize that they have the condition. Regular checkups at your dentist are important because they can help in finding the earliest signs of gingivitis. If left untreated, plaque will continue to build up on your teeth and along your gumline, eventually advancing into a severe type of gum disease that is known as periodontitis. Periodontitis causes tooth loss in adults.
The bacteria that is present in plaque both irritate and inflame your gum tissue. Some of the symptoms of gingivitis include:
- Gums that feel sore or tender to the touch
- Swollen gums that are also dark red or purple in color
- Bleeding during brushing or flossing
- Persistent bad breath
- Teeth that are sensitive to heat and cold
- A change in your bite
- Teeth that are loose
In order to prevent gingivitis, you need to rid your teeth and gums of as much plaque as possible. If you believe that you are experiencing symptoms of this condition, schedule an appointment with your dentist as quickly as possible so that you can have plaque or tartar accumulations removed from your teeth via the use of special tools.
Dental plaque can also cause tooth decay, also known as dental caries or cavities. The acid released by plaque when you eat or drink dissolves the enamel and dentin present on the teeth. Eventually, this can lead to small holes, commonly called cavities, to develop. If you leave these cavities untreated, they will grow larger and deeper. This can lead to a severe toothache, infection and even tooth loss.
The Mayo Clinic states that cavities and tooth decay are common health problems around the world. The American Dental Association (ADA) says that tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease. However, older adults and even infants can develop cavities. Fortunately, tooth decay is preventable. Symptoms of tooth decay or cavities include:
- Pain when biting down or chewing
- Tooth sensitivity when eating or drinking hot, cold or sweet foods or beverages
- Sudden toothache that happens without a cause
- Visible holes or pits in your tooth
It’s important to understand that you may not experience any symptoms while a cavity is forming. This is why you should have regular checkups and cleanings at your dentist’s office. Untreated cavities can destroy teeth. In addition, infection can spread to the root and cause painful abscesses. These abscesses can lead to serious, sometimes life-threatening, health conditions.
Caring for Your Teeth at Home
The best way to keep your teeth and gums healthy is to practice good oral hygiene habits at home. To do this, you will want to incorporate the following practices in your at-home dental care routine.
Brushing: The ADA recommends that you brush your teeth twice a day utilizing a soft-bristle or electric toothbrush with fluoride toothpaste. However, your dentist may recommend a personalized brushing plan that fits your unique needs. Other things you can do include:
- Brushing for at least two minutes
- Brushing your tongue in order to eliminate bacteria there
- Replacing your toothbrush at least every three months (sooner if your bristles are worn)
- Replacing your toothbrush after you’ve had a cold, the flu or any mouth infection
Flossing: Flossing helps remove plaque and food particles from the places where your toothbrush can’t reach easily. Flossing for a few moments every day prevents bad breath, tartar buildup and bad breath.
Mouthwash: Using an antibacterial mouthwash for at least 30 seconds can help remove any food particles that may remain after brushing and flossing. It also reduces the number of bacteria that lead to tooth decay, gingivitis and halitosis. Find products with the ADA seal on the label so that you know that the product will be effective.
Healthy eating and drinking: Eating poorly is not only bad for your overall health, it can also be bad for your oral health. The ADA says that foods and drinks full of carbohydrates, sugars and starches cause higher levels of plaque to build up. A balanced diet full of dairy products, fruits, vegetables, nuts and lean proteins, as well as drinking tap water containing fluoride can all help you to avoid tooth decay.
Why You Need to Establish a Relationship with a Dentist
It’s important that you build a good relationship with a dental care provider. Seeing a dentist who knows your medical and dental care history can save you time and money. It can also keep your teeth and gums healthier, since regular checkups and cleanings lead to detecting problems earlier.
The ADA suggests that you have checkups and cleanings performed twice a year. Your dentist may recommend that you visit more often if you have special dental health care needs. Your checkups will consist of the dentist performing an examination of your teeth, gums and mouth. This helps your dentist find the early signs of gingivitis and tooth decay. He or she may also look for signs of teeth grinding (also known as bruxism), changes in your bite and signs of TMJ.
You may need to have X-rays done at your visit. These can help the dentist find problems that would otherwise go unnoticed. These issues include decay between the teeth, fractures, abscesses, cysts, tumors or bone loss in the jaw.
Another reason why you need to see your dentist at least twice a year is so you can be screened for oral cancer. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research states that oral cancer makes up 3% of all cancers that are diagnosed every year in the United States. That’s around 49,700 cases a year. Dentists are typically the first to spot signs of cancers to the mouth and the back of the throat.
Oral cancer is twice as likely to happen in men than in woman. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it is the sixth most common cancer occurring in men. Those who smoke or drink alcohol are also at a higher risk of developing oral cancer.
Great Dental Care is the Key
Properly caring for your teeth and gums with home care, routine checkups and regular cleanings by a dental professional will keep your oral health in prime condition for an entire lifetime.
Our office provides all of our patients with compassionate, high-quality and affordable dental care. Book an appointment with us today by calling our office or scheduling one online. We look forward to seeing you soon.