Recent reports indicate a relationship between periodontal (gum) disease and stroke, heart disease and preterm low-birth-weight babies. Likewise, more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases have oral manifestations, meaning your dentist may be the first health care provider to diagnose a health problem.
Bacteria can live in your mouth in the form of plaque, causing cavities and gingivitis, which can lead to periodontal (gum) disease. In order to keep your mouth clean, you must practice good oral hygiene every day.
What is plaque?
Plaque is a sticky layer of material containing bacteria that accumulates on teeth, including where toothbrushes can’t reach. Many of the foods you eat cause the bacteria in your mouth to produce acids. Sugary foods are obvious sources of plaque, but there are others that you might not realize can cause harm. Starches—such as bread, crackers, and cereal—also cause acids to form. Plaque also produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red, sensitive, and susceptible to bleeding. This can lead to gum disease, in which gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets that fill with bacteria and pus. If the gums are not treated, the bone around the teeth can be destroyed and teeth may become loose or have to be removed.
What is calculus?
Calculus is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below gum line and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
How can I get rid of plaque?
The best way to remove plaque is by brushing and cleaning between your teeth every day. Brushing removes plaque from the tooth surfaces. Brush your teeth twice per day with a soft-bristled brush. The size and shape of your toothbrush should fit your mouth and allow you to reach all areas easily. Use an antimicrobial toothpaste containing fluoride, which helps protect your teeth from decay, also clean between the teeth once a day with floss or interdental cleaners to remove plaque from between your teeth, where the toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing is essential to prevent gum disease.
Patients are advised to check with their dentist or hygienist to determine which technique is best for them, since tooth position and gum condition vary
• Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the gums.
• Move the brush in an elliptical motion in short (tooth-wide) strokes.
• Brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
• Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, using a gentle up-and-down stroke.
• Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
• Break off about 18 inches of floss and wind it around the middle fingers of each hand. Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.
• Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion.
• When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it into a C shape against one tooth under the gum line
• Gently bring the floss up and down several times on the surface of each tooth
• Repeat this method on the rest of your teeth.
A mouth rinse, in addition to daily brushing and flossing, can increase the cleanliness of your mouth. Antimicrobial mouth rinses may reduce bacteria and plaque activity, which cause gingivitis and gum disease. Fluoride mouth rinses also help reduce and prevent tooth decay. Always talk to your dentist about any new products you are interested in trying. Not everyone should use a fluoride mouth rinse.
Seeing a dentist every six months can help identify diseases in their earliest stages. It also is important to provide your dentist with a complete medical history and to inform him or her of any recent problems, even if they seem unrelated to your mouth.
A regular exam allows your dentist to keep your mouth in tip-top shape and watch for developments that may point to problems elsewhere in your body. A dental exam also picks up on poor nutrition and hygiene, growth and development problems and improper jaw alignment. Your dentist can also provide counseling on special oral health care needs, such as tobacco cessation.