Family Health Magazine - DENTAL HEALTH
Keeping Your Smile Healthy
Good oral habits can help
Like many common health problems, you can control dental disease by your attitudes, habits and behavior. It is a fact that proper home care, regular dental visits, regular cleanings, fluoride treatments and a healthy balanced diet will help you keep your teeth for a lifetime.
If you are an informed adult with a positive attitude to dental care, you will maintain your own dental health while providing a role model for your children to learn the same values. The choice is yours. You are in control.
To prevent dental disease we must first recognize the problem. All children in our school systems have heard of plaque. Plaque is the invisible accumulation of bacteria that forms on the teeth next to the gums. It causes tooth decay (the main cause of tooth loss in children) and gum disease (the main cause of tooth loss in adults).
Since plaque requires 24 hours to begin its destructive processes, the solution is simple. We must remove all plaque accumulations every day to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. A thorough cleaning (brushing and flossing) will take from six to 10 minutes each night immediately before retiring. Repeating the procedure in the morning or after each meal may not be necessary but, if you do this, you know your mouth is always bright, clean and fresh. Project your self-confidence with a happy healthy smile.
Since plaque is invisible, it can be difficult for you to identify. Disclosing tablets (a red dye) are available at most dental offices, health units and pharmacies. Proper use of these tablets will color the plaque, making it visible and easy to remove with proper brushing and flossing. As you gain experience, the need for disclosing plaque will be reduced and you will know where it is even without seeing it. Experienced brushers may use disclosing tablets occasionally as a spot check.
Remove Plaque by Flossing:
Many people feel they are unable to floss their teeth but the proper technique makes it a simple task for nearly everyone. Try this:
- Take enough floss - 40 centimeters (15 to 18 inches).
- Wrap it around both middle fingers until there is about eight cm (three inches) between your two hands.
- Use your thumbs and index fingers of both hands to direct the floss to the working site.
- Gently use a sawing motion with the floss between the teeth.
- Curve the floss around one of the teeth and gently work it under the gums moving it up and down several times.
- When the surface is clean, the floss will make a 'squeaky-clean' sound.
- Repeat the procedure on the next tooth, and continue to move around your mouth until you have flossed all your teeth. Sounds easy and it is. Start at the back of the upper right and systematically clean between all the teeth until you finish at the back of the lower right. If you need help, contact your dentist or your local health unit.
Removing Plaque by Brushing:
Toothbrushing has long been the accepted method of removing food from teeth and gums. But many people still do not remove plaque effectively because they use poor technique. If you wish to gain maximum benefit from your brushing, follow these simple rules:
- Place the brush on your teeth and gums at a 45-degree angle to the gum-line.
- Vibrate the brush in a slightly back-and-forth or circular motion directing pressure on the gums.
- The bristles must reach between the teeth and under the gum. Do not scrub!
- Spend 10 seconds on every area. Move at 10 second intervals from one location to the next until all the surfaces of all the teeth have been brushed properly.
- Be methodical. Follow the same circuit every time.
- The biting surfaces of the back teeth may be scrubbed.
- Be thorough. The more difficult areas require more effort. Do not skip them.
Once you have learned the correct techniques for brushing and flossing teeth and gums, you must perform these tasks as part of your daily routine. To help you reach this goal properly, remember these important points.
- Some soreness and bleeding are normal. If they persist for more than a week, contact your dentist.
- Brushes come in a variety of sizes. Make sure your brush fits your mouth.
- Parents must be responsible for removing children’s plaque up to about eight years of age. Younger children are not able to brush and floss effectively.
- Most pharmacies sell special brushes and flossing devices. Electric toothbrushes are valuable for the disabled and they appeal to children. When used properly, they can be as effective as normal brushing.
- Benefit from the use of fluoride. Drink fluoridated water if your water supply is treated. Use a fluoride toothpaste and a fluoride mouthwash. If your water is untreated, ask your dentist about fluoride supplements.
- Be proud of your teeth. They belong to you so take care of them.
The Role of the Dental Team
Most modern dental offices have adopted the ‘team concept’ to serve their patients. Although each team member has a specific task to perform, they all have the same goal in mind - the best possible treatment for the patient. Receptionists, assistants, hygienists and dentists are all trained health professionals and should always act in your best interest. Remember that prevention is much easier than treatment when it comes to dental problems. Your family needs:
- Regular Cleaning and Fluoride
This procedure removes all the plaque and tartar that has collected on your teeth above and below the gum line. Nearly everyone requires this treatment twice a year. Fluoride should be applied to the surface of the teeth after each professional cleaning.
- Regular Dental Examinations
Regular examinations by your dentist will catch potential problems in their early stages. Diagnostic aids (such as x-rays or study casts) may be used to assess each person’s needs. Besides checking for decay, your dentist will look for gum disease, crooked teeth, abscessed teeth, impacted teeth, missing teeth, bite problems and oral cancer. As well, many medical problems appear first in the mouth.
- Additional Preventive Measures
Ask your dental team about pit and fissure sealants to seal parts of your teeth and prevent decay. This is especially valuable in children between six and 16 years old. If you feel your family would benefit from advice about nutrition, your dental office or your health unit will gladly help.
Anyone in your family who is involved in contact sports should wear a properly fitted athletic mouth guard available from your dentist. If a family member has a habit of clenching, grinding or bruxing (night grinding), they could be doing irreparable damage to their teeth. A nightguard will prevent this. Ask your dentist.
In today’s world of high-tech health care, there are very few reasons to sacrifice your teeth. We now have the knowledge and technology to keep teeth ‘good for life’. As public awareness and attitudes continue to change, the disposable tooth will become a thing of the past.
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physician promptly. © Copyright 2015, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 2S6 [DH_FHa97]