The key to keeping your teeth in top shape is regular brushing and flossing. Awareness of proper tooth care has helped to bring about a new generation of young people who are virtually cavity-free.
Think of your toothbrush as a disposable item. Replace it every few months or even sooner if the bristles become worn or splayed.
Because the moist environment of the bathroom is ideal for microorganisms to survive,
it’s a good idea to keep your toothbrush (uncovered) in your bedroom, which is typically a drier area.
When you have a cold or the flu, replace your toothbrush while you are sick and again once you have recovered.
People undergoing chemotherapy should replace their toothbrushes as often as once every three days. Patients recovering from a major operation, such as bypass or transplant surgery, should replace their toothbrushes every day.
Before brushing, soften the toothbrush bristles by soaking them in warm tap water.
For sensitive teeth, try a desensitizing toothpaste. If the paste lacks fluoride, use a fluoridated mouthwash as well.
Unless your dentist recommends one, avoid toothpaste that claims to whiten your teeth. These often contain harsh abrasives; prolonged use can damage or wear away the enamel of the tooth.
Remove minor stains on teeth by gently brushing with a paste made of baking soda and water.
Advertisements frequently how a toothbrush covered with a large dollop of toothpaste. Actually, you need only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste for each brushing.
Unless you’re having den tal problems, you’ll need a complete set of X-rays only every five years, and bitewings (X-rays that show the molars and pre molars) every two years.
BETTER BRUSHING AND FLOSSING
Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once; you should spend a minimum of five minutes daily (total) on these routines. Make sure you’re brushing and flossing correctly, as shown below.
Hold the brush at a 45° angle, pointing toward the gum line. Use a gentle, circular motion-almost a wiggle.
Tilt your brush vertically and use up-and-down strokes to clean the inner surfaces of upper and lower front teeth.
Use short, angled strokes to clean the outer and inner surfaces of back teeth. Close your mouth slightly to make brushing the back teeth easier.
With a light back-and-forth motion, scrub the chewing surfaces of back teeth with the brush held flat.
To floss properly, use a gentle sawing motion as you bring the taut floss to the gum line. Then carefully slide the floss up and down, follow ing the shape of the tooth. Move the floss under the gum line, but be careful not to cut into the gum. Be sure to do each tooth
THE RIGHT TECHNIQUE
Overzealous scrubbing with a toothbrush can cause the gums to recede and can even damage the tooth’s exposed root. If you tend to brush too vigorously, try holding the brush as you would a pencil between your thumb and first two fingers. This will automatically make your strokes shorter and lighter.
Floss after you brush rather a before. Besides removing plaque (a bacterial film), you’ll be working the toothpaste own between your teeth.
If your floss shreds, you may simply need to use a thicker, waxed floss, or you may have a filling that needs smoothing. Check with your dentist.
If you have a fixed bridgework, use a toothpick to help control plaque buildup and gum bleeding. Insert the toothpick at a 45° angle down into the gum groove in front and in the back of each tooth. Scrape very gently.
If you notice a smooth, opaque white patch In side your mouth or on your lip, see your dentist or dermatologist. This may Indicate a precancer ous condition.
Plaque and tartar (a hard mineral deposit) can cause periodontal, or gum, a disease called gingivitis in the early stage and periodontitis in the more advanced stage.
To prevent a buildup of plaque and tartar, brush and floss regularly and properly, and have professional cleanings at least twice a year. Bacteria flourishing on dental surfaces can affect your body as well as your teeth.
Avoid cigarettes and chewing tobacco; they can irritate gums and can also lead to oral and other cancers.
Eat healthy, balanced meals; a diet low in nutrients can diminish your body’s efforts to fight infection.
Persistent bad breath and red, tender, or easily bleeding gums may be signs of gum dis-
ease. If you experience any of these, see your dentist. Remember that gingivitis is usu-
Toothpastes that claim to be I antiplaque are effective, but they remove plaque only from the exposed surfaces of teeth, so you still need to clean between your teeth with floss or special cleansers your dentist can recommend.
IF YOU’RE PREGNANT
There is no direct link between tooth decay and pregnancy; calcium is not absorbed from the mother’s teeth for the benefit of the developing child. However, hormone levels do make pregnant women’s gums more sensitive to the effects of plaque and more hospitable to certain bacteria. Routine dental cleanings are important.
If you need dental work, be sure to tell your dentist that you’re pregnant. Avoid X-rays,
if possible, but take care of any cavities. Extensive treatment involving general anesthesia could put the fetus at risk.
Keeping your spouse awake? Dentists can solve some snoring prob lems with custom-made orthotic appliances.
Start good habits early. Teach children not to bite hard objects-such as ice, pencils, and popcorn kernels that can damage teeth.
Clean a toddler’s teeth with a moistened washcloth or gauze pad. A small child should use a
toothbrush, with soft bristles, made for children.
Do not put your baby or toddler to bed with a bottle of juice or milk. This practice exposes the teeth to sugars for long hours. Fill the bottle with water instead.
Check with your dentist to make sure your preschooler is getting the proper amount of fluoride. An overdose of fluoride supplements can lead to fluorosis-white blotches on developing tooth enamel. Young children, who may lack control over the swallow reflex, are also prone to ingesting too much toothpaste, which usually contains more fluoride than children need. Be sure your child uses only a tiny amount of toothpaste.
When your child’s permanent molars come in, consider protecting them with sealants-
clear plastic coatings the dentist applies to the chewing surfaces of back teeth. Sealants form a barrier that keeps food and bacteria out of tiny grooves in the teeth. Cavity-prone adolescents and adults may also want this protection, which is nearly completely effective in preventing decay in back teeth.
Some people grind their teeth during sleep, which can cause facial and jawbone pain, headaches, and abraded teeth. If you suffer from nighttime grinding, ask your dentist about a splint-a plastic or rub ber device that protects the teeth.
ADA Certification: What Those Seals Really Mean
To get the American Dental Association’s seal of approval on a product, a manufacturer must submit convincing research-often clinical studies conducted at universities-to demonstrate that its product is safe and effective. The company must also follow ADA rules for advertising and packaging.
KEEPING BREATH FRESH
More than 300 species of bacteria inhabit the human mouth, causing bad breath, often in the form of “morning breath.”
Causes of bad breath other than bacteria include:
Smoking, chewing tobacco, and drinking alcohol
Aromatic compounds in certain foods, such as garlic and onions, which enter the bloodstream and are carried to the lungs, then exhaled
Gum disease, especially when accompanied by bleeding
Localized respiratory-tract infections, such as chronic bronchitis or sinusitis with postnasal drip
After you brush your teeth, brush your tongue to help freshen breath.
Don’t count on a mouth wash to affect your breath for very long. Tests with garlic found that bad breath returned between 10 and 60 minutes after rinsing. Another potential problem with most mouthwashes is that they contain alcohol, with content ranging from 6 to nearly 27 percent. Alcohol in high concentration creates a burning sensation in the mouth, and regular use can dry out the mucous membranes and aggravate any existing inflammations.
Since chronic bad breath may be a symptom of dental or another disease, a person with this condition should be examined by a dentist and possibly by a doctor.
For a natural breath freshener, try parsley, clove, cinnamon sticks, or the seeds of cardamom, anise, or fennel.
Be sure to store your re moved dentures in water; otherwise, they may warp. If your dentures have a metal base, however, don’t soak them in a cleaning solution for more than 15 minutes.
Clean dentures over a basin filled with water; this way, if you should drop them, the water will cushion the fall. You may also want to put a folded towel around the rim of the sink.
If your lower dentures hurt or feel loose, they may need adjusting. Have your dentist
perform this work rather than doing it yourself with denture adhesives, an improper fit can lead to increased irritation and more serious problems.
Ask your dentist about alternative ways to floss if you have a hard time with your new fixtures.
If canker sores are bothering you, try rinsing with a weak solution of sodium bicarbonate.