Dental hygiene refers to the practice of keeping the mouth, teeth, and gums clean and healthy to prevent disease
More than just a cosmetic procedure for those who want to look their best, dental hygiene sessions are an absolutely indispensable part of good oral health. They are as necessary as flossing and brushing your teeth, but do not need to be done as frequently, as they are the main preventative measure against tooth decay and gum disease.
Practicing good oral hygiene means maintaining your smile by visiting the dentist regularly and taking care of your teeth and gums between check-ups. Our practice wants to make sure that you get the most out of your office visits, and that your teeth stay healthy for life! We'll work with you to provide complete dental care, and show you how to maintain your smile at home with the right dental products for you and your family.
Teeth and Gum Care
Looking after your teeth is important to help avoid tooth decay and gum disease. Avoiding gum disease is important for your general health too as it has been linked to conditions such as stroke, diabetes and heart disease.
KMC ADVOCATE SIX BASIC STEPS for caring for teeth and gums:
- Dental Cleanings and Regular check-ups
Regular dental check-up are an important part of maintaining your oral health. During your regular check-up, your hygienist will:
- Check for any problems that you may not see or feel
- Look for cavities or any other signs of tooth decay
- Inspect your teeth and gums for gingivitis and signs of periodontal disease
- Provide a thorough teeth cleaning, rinse, and polish
Visiting the dentist every six months gives you the chance to talk with your doctor and receive answers for any questions you may have about your oral health. Check-ups are also a great way for you to find out about new treatments that may benefit your smile.
- PROPER BRUSHING OF TEETH – three times a day or at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Use fluoride toothpaste to remove food particles and plaque from the tooth surfaces. Also be sure to brush the top surface of your tongue and gums; this will remove any extra plaque-causing food particles, and help keep your breath fresh!
- PROPER FLOSSING OF TEETH - Clean between your teeth by flossing at least once a day. You can also use a mouthwash to help kill bacteria and freshen your breath. Decay-causing bacteria can linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can't reach. Floss and mouthwash will help remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.
- CHOOSING THE RIGHT TOOTHPASTE & TOOTHBRUSH - From toothpaste and mouthwash to toothbrushes and dental floss, it's important to choose the right products for your smile. Keep in mind that when you're looking for a new toothpaste or toothbrush, be sure to choose one that has been approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). Your dentist can also help by recommending certain dental products for use at home.
- GOOD BALANCE DIET = HEALTHY TEETH
Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Most snacks that children eat can lead to cavity formation. The more frequently a child snacks, the greater the chance for tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese, which are healthier and better for children’s teeth.
- WATER FRUORIDATION - is the process of adjusting the amount of fluoride found in water to achieve optimal prevention of tooth decay. Usually, the fluoride level in water is not enough to prevent tooth decay; however, some groundwater and natural springs can have naturally high levels of fluoride.
Fluoride has been proven to protect teeth from decay. Bacteria in the mouth produce acid when a person eats sugary foods. This acid eats away minerals from the tooth’s surface, making the tooth weaker and increasing the chance of developing cavities. Fluoride helps to rebuild and strengthen the tooth’s surface, or enamel. Water fluoridation prevents tooth decay by providing frequent and consistent contact with low levels of fluoride. By keeping the tooth strong and solid, fluoride stops cavities from forming and can even rebuild the tooth’s surface.
HOW DO I PREVENT CAVITIES? Depending on ages
Good oral hygiene removes bacteria and the leftover food particles that combine to create cavities. For infants, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water. See "Baby Bottle Tooth Decay" for more information.
For older children, brush their teeth at least twice a day. Also, watch the number of snacks containing sugar that you give your children. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visits every six months to the pediatric dentist, beginning at your child’s first birthday. Routine visits will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health.
SEAL OUT DECAY - A sealant is a protective coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the back teeth (premolars and molars), where four out of five cavities in children are found. This sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque and acid, thus protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth.
MOUTH GUARDS - When a child begins to participate in recreational activities and organized sports, injuries can occur. A properly fitted mouth guard, or mouth protector, is an important piece of athletic gear that can help protect your child’s smile, and should be used during any activity that could result in a blow to the face or mouth.
Mouth guards help prevent broken teeth, and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw. A properly fitted mouth guard will stay in place while your child is wearing it, making it easy for them to talk and breathe.
Ask your pediatric dentist about custom and store-bought mouth protectors.
ADOLESCENT to ADULT
BEWARE OF SPORTS DRINKS -Due to the high sugar content and acids in sports drinks, they have erosive potential and the ability to dissolve even fluoride-rich enamel, which can lead to cavities. To minimize dental problems, children should avoid sports drinks and hydrate with water before, during and after sports. Be sure to talk to your pediatric dentist before using sports drinks.
If sports drinks are consumed:
- reduce the frequency and contact time
- swallow immediately and do not swish them around the mouth
- neutralize the effect of sports drinks by alternating sips of water with the drink
- rinse mouthguards only in water
- seek out dentally friendly sports drinks
TONGUE PIERCING - IS IT REALLY COOL?
You might not be surprised anymore to see people with pierced tongues, lips or cheeks, but you might be surprised to know just how dangerous these piercings can be.
There are many risks involved with oral piercings, including chipped or cracked teeth, blood clots, blood poisoning, heart infections, brain abscess, nerve disorders (trigeminal neuralgia), receding gums or scar tissue. Your mouth contains millions of bacteria, and infection is a common complication of oral piercing. Your tongue could swell large enough to close off your airway!
Common symptoms after piercing include pain, swelling, infection, an increased flow of saliva and injuries to gum tissue. Difficult-to-control bleeding or nerve damage can result if a blood vessel or nerve bundle is in the path of the needle.
TOBACCO - BAD NEWS IN ANY FORM
Tobacco in any form can jeopardize your child’s health and cause incurable damage. Teach your child about the dangers of tobacco.
Smokeless tobacco, also called spit, chew or snuff, is often used by teens who believe that it is a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. This is an unfortunate misconception. Studies show that spit tobacco may be more addictive than smoking cigarettes and may be more difficult to quit. Teens who use it may be interested to know that one can of snuff per day delivers as much nicotine as 60 cigarettes. In as little as three to four months, smokeless tobacco use can cause periodontal disease and produce pre-cancerous lesions called leucoplakias.
If your child is a tobacco user you should watch for the following that could be early signs of oral cancer:
- A sore that won’t heal.
- White or red leathery patches on the lips, and on or under the tongue.
- Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or lips.
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue; or a change in the way the teeth fit together.
Because the early signs of oral cancer usually are not painful, people often ignore them. If it’s not caught in the early stages, oral cancer can require extensive, sometimes disfiguring, surgery. Even worse, it can kill.
Help your child avoid tobacco in any form. By doing so, they will avoid bringing cancer-causing chemicals in direct contact with their tongue, gums and cheek.
XYLITOL - REDUCING CAVITIES
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes the benefits of xylitol on the oral health of infants, children, adolescents, and persons with special health care needs.
Studies using xylitol as either a sugar substitute or a small dietary addition have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in new tooth decay, along with some reversal of existing dental caries. Xylitol provides additional protection that enhances all existing prevention methods. This xylitol effect is long-lasting and possibly permanent. Low decay rates persist even years after the trials have been completed.
Studies suggest xylitol intake that consistently produces positive results ranged from 4-20 grams per day, divided into 3-7 consumption periods. Higher results did not result in greater reduction and may lead to diminishing results. Similarly, consumption frequency of less than 3 times per day showed no effect.
CARE OF YOUR CHILD'S TEETH
- Starting at birth, clean your child's gums with a soft cloth and water.
- As soon as your child's teeth erupt, brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- If they are under the age of 2, use a small "smear" of toothpaste.
- If they're 2-5 years old, use a "pea-size" amount of toothpaste.
- Be sure and use an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste and make sure your child does not swallow it.
- When brushing, the parent should brush the child's teeth until they are old enough to do a good job on their own.
- Flossing removes plaque between teeth and under the gumline where a toothbrush can't reach.
- Flossing should begin when any two teeth touch.
- Be sure and floss your child's teeth daily until he or she can do it alone.
Brushing and flossing children's teeth
As soon as a baby's teeth come through, called erupting, they need to be cleaned.
This can be done gently with a cloth at first before moving on to special baby toothbrushes.
Here are more tips on taking care of your child’s teeth:
- Take children to the dentist as soon as their first teeth appear. This will get them used to the experience and a lifetime of check-ups - and it is free for children on the NHS.
- Pick a small, age-appropriate toothbrush designed for babies or children with softer bristles.
- Use fluoride toothpaste - just a smear for babies and infants and a pea sized blob from 3-6 years old. The NHS says general family toothpaste is OK for children.
- Teach children to spit out toothpaste after use rather than rinsing. Rinsing washes away the beneficial fluoride.
- Brush your child's teeth twice a day for 2 minutes at a time. Have a routine, such as in the morning and just before bed.
- Replace the toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if it shows signs of wear.
- Don't let children share their toothbrush or lick or suck toothpaste tubes. Don't let them walk around or run with the brush in their mouth to avoid injuries.
- Children should be helped to brush their teeth or supervised until they are 7 or 8 years old.
- Ask your dentist for specific advice about extra oral hygiene measures, such as flossing or using mouthwash.
- Ask your dentist about fluoride varnish or dental fissure sealants. These are thin, plastic protective barriers that fill in the chewing surfaces of the teeth, protecting them from tooth decay. They may be available from some NHS dentists.