Oral Hygiene Matters

Do You Have a Dirty Mouth?

Or did you listen to the wiggles brush your teeth song as a kid? 

A recent report from the Australian Health Policy Collaborationrevealed that your mouth might not be as clean as you think.

Mouth bacteria may not only be unflattering from a bad breath point of view but it also leads to further complications.

According to the report, only half of us are brushing our teeth the recommended two times a day. That might explain why nine out of 10 of us have at least some tooth decay.

Kids aren’t immune to lax dental hygiene, either.

The same report found that more than a third of five-year-olds have decay in baby teeth, and children between the ages of five and nine have the highest rate of hospital admissions with preventable dental diseases.

And if that’s not enough to have you enquiring about oral health services; our dental habits are only part of the problem.

The report revealed that our dietary habits are lacking, too. Most children eat far too much sugar and sweet treats, and we adults have some risky alcohol and smoking behaviours that are putting our teeth and gums at risk.

We’re skipping dental checkups, and we’re losing teeth as a result.

If you want a healthier, cleaner smile, the time to take action is now and at least digest the information presented by an oral health therapist.

In this article, we take a deeper look into the side effects of poor oral health and how to protect your self against them.

How fixed braces and oral hygiene

Figure 1: Plaque and gingivitis in a patient who was not brushing well enough

Dr Anthony Hopkins on Dental Hygiene

Anyone embarking on orthodontic treatment needs to have good oral hygiene. Before you even begin treatment, your gums should be healthy, and your teeth should be free of plaque and tartar. If you’re already struggling to keep your teeth clean before orthodontic brackets and wires are applied, it’s just going to get harder with the appliances in place.

Plaque is going to have even more places to stick, making it virtually impossible to keep your teeth clean. (Figure 1)

Poor dental hygiene is bad for your teeth in general, but during orthodontic treatment, the consequences can be even worse. First, with enough time, the right surface and environment, plaque can cause permanent changes in the dental enamel.

At first, this might look like white spot changes (Figure 2) on the tooth, but eventually, it will cause a cavity. Second, the plaque will irritate the gums and trigger an inflammatory response called gingivitis.

Left long enough, the superficial inflammation will progress and lead to inflammation around the supporting tissues around the teeth, called periodontitis, causing irreversible gum changes.

Poor oral hygiene has resulted in damage to the enamel on the teeth

Figure 2: A patient with poor hygiene and damage to the enamel is already visible as white marks on the tooth

I recommend that my patients brush twice a day for at least two minutes at a time. Brushing more often, especially after meals, is also excellent. I recommend using a fluoride toothpaste from any of the main toothpaste brands. You also need to clean between your teeth using either interdental brushes or Superfloss because plaque and bacteria like to hide here.

The Science Behind Oral Disease

Do you know what it takes to have a healthy smile?

The oral environment is complicated with all kinds of bacteria, fungi and viruses calling your mouth home. Many of them are normal, healthy parts of the flora of your mouth. When they’re balanced, they’re harmless or even beneficial.

Unfortunately, some conditions can throw your mouth out of balance, allowing acid-producing bacteria to grow excessively. These bacteria are harmful to your teeth and gums, and the acid they produce dissolves the enamel on your teeth and contributes to cavities.

Oral bacteria live in a biofilm called plaque. Plaque is especially sticky, and it grows on the teeth and along the gumline. It hardens into a calcified substance called tartar and accumulates along the length of the tooth if it isn’t cleaned regularly through brushing and flossing. This can irritate your gums and lead to gingivitis.

If the inflammation isn’t stopped, it can spread deeper, and the gums will pull away from the teeth, creating pockets of infection.

Once a pocket is formed, it’s almost impossible to keep it clean at home. Plaque and bacteria will build up inside it. The inflammation will just keep getting deeper, and the periodontitis will worsen. Eventually, you could be at risk of losing teeth.

More than just poor dental hygiene can increase your risk of gum disease. Some common risk factors include:

  • Advancing age
  • Smoking/tobacco use
  • Medications such as ones which have side effects that cause dry mouth
  • A family history of periodontitis
  • Certain hormonal changes in women
  • Certain infections that can compromise a person’s immunity i.e. diabetes
  • Stress

The best way to keep oral bacteria under control and your oral microbiome balanced is with proper dental hygiene.

Toothbrushing 101- Are you brushing effectively?

Chances are, the answer is no.

Maybe you’re speeding through or zoning out while you brush. Either way, taking a few minutes to review your toothbrushing technique is one of the best things you can do for your teeth.

  1. Apply a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste to your toothbrush, and hold it at a 45-degree angle towards your gums.
  2. Use a gentle circular motion as you brush the outside surfaces and inside surfaces of your teeth. Use a back-and-forth motion to clean the chewing surfaces.
  3. Spend at least two minutes to clean all surfaces of your teeth. Any less than that just isn’t enough to get your teeth clean.
  4. Once you’ve cleaned for the recommended time, spit out the excess toothpaste, but there’s no need to rinse. The extra fluoride in the remaining toothpaste will continue to fight bacteria even after the brushing is over.
  5. Don’t forget to floss! Toothbrush bristles aren’t small enough to clean between your teeth or along the gumline effectively, so you need to use an interdental cleaner or flosser to remove plaque and bacteria.
  6. Remember to replace your toothbrush every three to four months or whenever the bristles start looking bent or frayed. If you prefer, you can also use a powered toothbrush for greater control over brushing pressure, timing and other details.

For the best results, brush twice a day or after meals, and floss at least once a day.

Professional Teeth Cleaning

Are brushing and flossing at home enough to keep your teeth healthy?

They’re a great start, but you also need to schedule regular dental visits.

Even with the best dental habits, you’ll still need periodic professional cleanings. This is even more important when you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment. During orthodontic work, your gums can become more sensitive, and the appliances can make it harder to keep your teeth clean.

Traditionally, dentists have recommended biannual cleanings and checkups. However, that schedule might not be appropriate for all patients. Dr Hopkins can help you determine the best cleaning schedule based on your current dental health, your orthodontic needs and other factors, like your dental health history and overall health status.

Your dentist or hygienist will do several things during a professional cleaning, including:

  • Examining your teeth for decay or other problems
  • Evaluating your gum health and measuring your pocket depth
  • Taking dental X-rays
  • Using specialized instruments to remove plaque and tartar buildup
  • Polishing teeth to remove superficial stains and leave teeth squeaky clean

Other treatments or procedures can also be used based on your specific needs to keep your smile and your whole body healthier.

The Link Between Dental and General Health

Did you know that your smile reflects not just your mood but your health, too?

Little things like the state of your teeth or the condition of your gums can reveal significant things about the state of your general health.  For example, gum disease can be made worse by conditions such as diabetes and other diseases.

Your gums can affect your health, and there is evidence that Periodontal disease can be a factor in heart disease and may even be associated with strokes.

Good dental habits can help you keep your smile and your whole body healthier!

Healthy Daily Habits

You brush, clean between your teeth and schedule check-ups regularly. Is there anything else you can do to protect your smile?

We’re glad you asked! There are several other things you can do to keep your teeth bright and your smile healthy, including:

  1. Drinking plenty of water – Soft drinks might be pretty tasty, but nothing can beat plain water when it comes to your health. Drink water after every meal to dilute oral acids. Water can also be a good source of fluoride, which helps counteract oral bacteria and strengthen dental enamel.
  2. Limiting sugary and acidic foods and drinks – Oral bacteria convert sugar into acid, which erodes enamel, and that causes cavities. Skip or limit sugary sweets/lollies, biscuits, baked goods and other treats to protect your teeth. Acidic foods and drinks, wine and soft drinks, can have the same effect. If you decide to indulge in something sweet or acidic, drink plenty of water after to dilute the acids.
  3. Eating more of the right foods – Processed foods are easy to grab and eat on the go, but they aren’t good for your teeth. Fresh, crunchy fruits and vegetables are full of the vitamins your gums need for health and also help mechanically clean teeth. Cheese and yoghurt are rich in enamel-building calcium. Choose fresh, whole foods instead of processed foods, and your smile will thank you.

Dr Hopkins highly recommends that patients not only limit how much sugar they eat but also how often they eat it. He suggests eating sugar not more than three times a day and to also avoid snacking on sugar between meals and before bed. Patients should also avoid juice and carbonated drinks, which tend to be highly acidic and high in sugars.

Protecting Orthodontic Appliances With Diet

Braces are securely attached to teeth, but they can be damaged by the wrong foods. A broken wire or dislodged bracket can be inconvenient and disrupt your treatment. Dr Hopkins recommends taking a few simple steps to protect your braces and treatment experience.

  1. Avoid hard foods – This includes popcorn and nuts or raw fruits and vegetables, which can instead but cut into small, bite-sized pieces for easier eating.
  2. Avoid sticky foods – Caramels and lollies are high in sugar, which makes them a poor choice, but they’re also sticky, which can stick to your braces, too, and be impossible to get off.
  3. Avoid chewy foods. Toffee, licorice and similarly chewy foods can break or damage your wires. This includes sugar-free gum, which can be useful for your teeth but not so good for your braces.\

Dental Disease Warning Signs

Gum disease and dental decay don’t just happen overnight, but many people don’t notice the signs right away. Because symptoms can be subtle, paying attention to your teeth and gums each time you brush, and floss can help you catch these signs right away and get the care you need sooner.

If you have any of these symptoms, contact Oasis Orthodontics:

  • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
  • Gums that look red or swollen
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Gums that are pulling away from teeth or teeth that look longer
  • Sudden sensitivity to temperature changes or pressure
  • Teeth that feel loose
  • Swelling anywhere in the face, cheek or jaw or a pimple along the gumline
  • Pain when you bite or chew

Quick treatment can stop the inflammation in its tracks, prevent further damage and restore your oral health.

Better Dental Hygiene: Review

  • Brush twice a day.
  • Use a powered toothbrush with a timer to keep track of your brushing sessions or a manual toothbrush with soft or medium strength bristles.
  • Use Superfloss, or interdental brush to clean between teeth and along the gumline.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups.
  • Replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head every few months or when the bristles show wear.
  • Use fluoride treatments as recommended.
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit processed foods, sweets and acidic foods and drinks.
  • Clean carefully around your orthodontic appliances

Call our office today to learn more about how you can have a healthier, happier smile or to schedule your next appointment with Dr Hopkins!

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