The Importance of Oral Hygiene
All oral diseases are caused by bacterial infections. The parasitic bacteria that have taken up residence in our mouths feed on our foods and sometimes even on our own tissues. They use this food to grow in dangerous numbers.
As the bacterial population grows, it forms biofilms to protect itself from saliva, which is toxic to the bacteria. These biofilms are the plaque that we try to remove with oral hygiene. Removing this plaque on a regular basis helps control bacterial populations, prevents the formation of tartar (more on this later), and limits damage to our teeth and gums by the caustic acid that these bacteria excrete.
Large, uncontrolled populations of bacteria in the mouth can spread to elsewhere in the body, resulting in a number of serious health effects, especially once the bacteria cause gum disease, which represents a large, stable population of dangerous bacteria. By keeping the bacterial population under control, oral hygiene protects the health of your mouth and your body.
Your Role in Oral Hygiene
Your part in oral hygiene is the most important. Although your dentist may have special tools and techniques to control the bacteria population in your mouth, your dentist only works in your mouth every six months or so. You can clean your mouth every day, and should do so to protect your health.
You should brush your teeth at least twice and day and floss every day. Brush your teeth for two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled brush and make sure your toothpaste is not especially abrasive. Aggressive toothbrushing can damage your tooth enamel and lead to receding gums.
It’s not necessary, and may not be advisable to brush after every meal. Try to end your meal with a crunchy fruit or vegetable that can help remove debris from your teeth, and rinse thoroughly, either with water or with a sugar-free neutral-pH beverage.
Floss your teeth gently, passing between teeth and curving around each tooth. Floss down to and maybe just a little below the gum line, but don’t be too aggressive, as this can lead to receding gums, especially around dental implants.
How Professional Cleanings Help
Ideally, your oral hygiene would remove all plaque from your teeth, but it likely doesn’t, especially at the gum line and in other hard to reach places. Plaque that isn’t removed absorbs minerals from your saliva (they’re there to remineralize your dental enamel) and forms a hard substance we call tartar. Tartar is essentially fossilized oral bacteria, but it also provides a shelter for living bacteria. Under the protection of the mineralized tartar, oral bacteria begin to thrive, which is the beginning of gum disease or serious tooth decay.
At your regular hygiene visits, we will remove the tartar, which, in addition to being unhealthy, is also unattractive.
If you are overdue for an oral hygiene visit, please call (201) 343-4044 or email the River Edge Dental Center for General & Cosmetic Dentistry.