Posted on: October 21, 2020
Dental Care Basics
We rely on our mouths to help us eat, drink, speak or smile. Our mouths also serve as the gateway to our digestive and respiratory tracts. This means that it is imperative that we take good care of them. Healthy teeth and gums not only make our smiles look and feel their best, but they also reduce our risk of developing pneumonia, cardiovascular disease and various types of cancers.
The best way to know what to do when it comes to your oral health is to become educated in the basics of dental care.
All About Plaque
Plaque is an invisible substance that sticks to our teeth whenever we eat or drink. This substance is full of bacteria that release acids that will eventually cause tooth decay and gum (periodontal disease). The acids released by the bacteria attacks the tooth’s enamel, making the tooth weaker and prone to developing cavities.
Plaque can be kept under control via daily brushing and flossing. If you allow plaque to build up, it will harden into a substance called calculus. The gums will eventually become inflamed. This is a condition known as gingivitis.
How to Prevent Gingivitis
Gingivitis affects an estimated 75 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. This common condition is the earliest stage of gum disease and is also the leading cause behind adults having bleeding gums.
Since gingivitis doesn’t normally cause pain, many people have no clue that they have it until it has progressed into a more advanced form of periodontal disease. Fortunately, your dentist will know what to look out for as far as early signs of gingivitis goes. If it is left untreated, the plaque will continue to accumulate along the gumline and on the teeth until it progresses into a severe version of gum disease known as periodontitis. This advanced form of gum disease is the main reason why adults lose their teeth.
You may have gingivitis if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Swollen, discolored gums
- Gums that are sore or tender
- Bleeding gums
- Bad breath
- Sensitive teeth
- Teeth that are loose
- Bite changes
Ridding your mouth of as much plaque as possible is the best way to keep gingivitis from developing. If you do develop it, it is easily treated via special tools that are utilized to remove tartar buildup and plaque from the teeth and gums.
How Cavities Are Formed
Cavities are also caused by the bacteria found within dental plaque. After eating and drinking, the bacteria releases acids that break down the hard tissue known as enamel. This permanently damages the tooth, causing it to develop tiny holes. These small cavities will deepen and grow larger if left untreated. Untreated cavities can sometimes lead to severe toothache, infection and even tooth loss.
Tooth decay and cavities are common problems across the world, according to the Mayo Clinic. They can affect children, infants and older adults. Common symptoms of having cavity include:
- Feeling pain when you bite down or chew
- Feeling sensitivity to sweet foods or foods of a certain temperature
- Experiencing a sudden toothache
- Seeing holes or pits in your teeth
It’s important to catch cavities early on so that they can be treated easily. If you leave a cavity untreated, a bacterial infection can spread to the root and lead to an abscess. Not only are abscesses painful, they can turn into a serious, even life-threatening, complication.
Developing an At-home Oral Hygiene Routine
One of the best ways to ensure that you are keeping plaque from building up is to establish a great at-home dental care routine.
Brushing: The most obvious way to take care of your teeth and gums is to brush them twice a day for a minimum of two minutes. Soft-bristle and electric toothbrushes work the best. You should also choose a toothpaste containing fluoride. Other brushing suggestions include:
- Brushing your tongue
- Changing your toothbrush approximately every three months
- Replacing your toothbrush after you’ve been ill or had an infection of the mouth
Flossing: This often-ignored part of oral hygiene is important because it allows you to reach areas that your toothbrush can’t. Those areas include in between the teeth and under the gumline. Flossing after you brush helps to remove food particles and plaque and assists in the prevention of tartar buildup, halitosis and tooth decay.
Mouthwash: Another overlooked area of oral hygiene is the use of a mouthwash. After you brush and floss, you should swish around an antibacterial mouth rinse for a minimum of 30 seconds. This removes any remaining food particles, as well as reduces the levels of bacteria present in the mouth. Using an ADA approved mouthwash will help to prevent tooth decay, gingivitis and bad breath.
Healthy eating and drinking: Most people know that maintaining a balanced diet helps with your overall health. You may not have known that it is also an essential element of keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Diets consisting of high levels of carbohydrates, sugars and starches lead to an increase of plaque acids. Therefore, eating a healthy diet can help to reduce your chances of developing tooth decay and gingivitis.
Seeing Your Dentist Regularly
In addition to taking care of your teeth and gums at home, you should also see the dentist regularly. This allows your dentist to know your entire medical and dental history. It also allows your dentist to catch and address any issues early on.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you see a dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings. If you have special dental care needs, your dentist may desire to see you more often. Dental cleanings allow built-up plaque and tartar to be removed. Checkups allow your dentist to thoroughly examine your mouth for any signs of gingivitis, tooth decay and other issues. In addition, your dentist may desire to take X-rays to see if there are any issues lurking in areas that can’t be seen by the naked eye.
Another important element of regular checkups includes oral cancer screenings. This potentially fatal disease comprises of around 3% of all cancers diagnosed every year in the United States. Men are at a higher risk of developing this disease, as are smokers and alcohol drinkers.
Don’t Delay Getting Dental Care
While many people put off receiving dental care, it’s important that you commit to getting regular dental care. Contact us via phone or online to book your appointment with one of our caring dentists.