Many people take their teeth for granted. The ability to speak as well as chew and bite down on food is not something that people tend to think about on a daily basis. That is, until there is a problem with the teeth, such as:
- Tooth sensitivity or pain
- The loss of teeth due to decay or infection
- Irritation or infection of the gums
The most important way to prevent these dental problems from occurring is by practicing good oral hygiene, also called dental hygiene. Good oral hygiene is only effective if it becomes habitual, and those who follow proper dental regimens are typically those who have overall healthy mouths.
Characteristics of Good Oral Hygiene
It is widely known that brushing one’s teeth is a good thing. However, the reasons for brushing as well as the proper frequency may not be so commonplace.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that children and adults brush their teeth twice a day using “an ADA-accepted” fluoride toothpaste and floss or use an alternative between-the-teeth cleaner once a day. The acts of brushing and flossing will help to remove harmful plaque (bacteria) that can attack the surface of teeth, between teeth and the gums. If left on the teeth, this naturally-occurring plaque will eventually harden on the teeth to form tartar or calculus deposits. The result is potential tooth decay and gum disease that can destroy the teeth.
Other good dental hygiene habits include:
- Eating a well-balanced diet
- Limiting the amount of sugary or starchy foods in the diet
- Avoiding frequent snacking throughout the day
Tooth Brushing 101
According to the ADA, there is a “right” method of tooth brushing and flossing. Some may be surprised to learn that brushing and flossing hard is not recommended. People should focus on moving a clean, soft-bristled toothbrush topped with fluoride toothpaste gently across all areas of the teeth, including the top, bottom, front, back, inside and out. The toothbrush should be slanted at a 45-degree angle to also clean the gums.
It is recommended that toothbrushes be replaced every 3-4 months or even sooner if the bristles begin to lose their shape.
For flossing, gentle movements of the floss between the teeth will help to remove food debris and plaque. The floss should also reach the gum line, curving gently around the area between the tooth and gum.
Dentists’ Role in Oral Health
It may seem that people who are meticulous about their home dental care do not need to visit a dentist. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, the ADA recommends that people of all ages visit a dentist every 6 months for a dental check-up.
Regardless of how well a person brushes and flosses at home, it is impossible for all plaque to be removed. Dentists and dental hygienists take at-home dental care a step further during professional cleanings by:
- Removing stubborn or hidden deposits of tartar or calculus
- Identifying problem areas, such as cavities, gum disease or tooth decay
- Performing oral cancer screenings