Dentistry has improved greatly in the last few decades. Children growing up today are enjoying healthier teeth because of the availability of fluoride, new dental techniques, improved oral hygiene and regular dental checkups. Good dental health includes brushing and flossing twice daily for two minutes and seeing your dentist regularly. In addition to preventing future dental problems, your dentist can detect other diseases such as diabetes and even some types of heart problems or oral cancer while performing a dental checkup.
The kind of floss makes no difference. Flossing removes plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line. These are the places where tooth decay and gum disease often start, and where the toothbrush doesn’t reach. When there is less saliva flow as during the night, cavities progress more quickly, so the ideal time to floss and brush is before bedtime. Of course, flossing helps anytime during the day, especially after eating. Gentle is the keyword when flossing. Being too harsh could injure your gums. An up and down motion is the most effective. Your dentist or dental hygienist will show you how to floss correctly. Ask your dentist if you can use interdental brushes instead of floss. They are easier to use and do a great job of cleaning between the teeth. Using these twice daily before brushing the teeth and gums, then rinsing with a fluoride mouth wash which is alcohol free afterward is an ideal way to help prevent dental problems. Electric toothbrushes are more effective than manual ones, but brushing for 2 minutes twice daily is important whichever type you use.
The major threat is dental plaque, a group of bacteria that multiply on and attach to teeth via the saliva. These bacteria get their nourishment from your daily diet. They thrive on carbohydrates (mainly sugars and starches) that they convert into acids, which in turn damage tooth enamel. Plaque is most harmful when the bacteria have had time (about 24 hours) to organize into colonies. If the plaque is not removed it will grow and cause tooth decay and gum problems known as gingivitis and/or periodontitis. Gingivitis is inflammation confined to the soft tissue called the gingiva or gums. Gum disease is the biggest single cause of halitosis (bad breath). Periodontitis (pyorrhea) is inflammation involving the bone, a more serious condition that can lead to loss of teeth if not treated. When plaque calcifies, it becomes tartar (calculus). Although dental plaque can be controlled by good oral hygiene, calculus should be removed by the dentist or hygienist.
As a person ages, there is some shrinking of gum tissue. Brushing helps slow this process. Always use a soft bristled toothbrush, which is not as abrasive to your gums as a hard brush, and better enables you to remove the food between the teeth—a hard bristle cannot fit into these spaces. Use the brush so that half is on the tooth and half is on the gum line. This can be accomplished by holding the brush at a 45 degree angle. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends changing toothbrushes or toothbrush heads every four months.
Any toothpaste that contains fluoride and carries the seal of the ADA is appropriate. What you do with it is most important. It is better to brush well once daily than several times of short duration. A good schedule would be: brushing for a minimum of two minutes after flossing at night, then brushing in the morning and anytime you think of it during the day. Children, and adults whose teeth are especially susceptible to decay, should clean more often. Lightly brushing the tongue will help freshen your breath. After flossing and brushing, rinse gently.
Some studies have shown that in addition to your regular dental care, supplementing your diet with extra vitamin C may help make your gums healthier. The dose is 500 to 1000 milligrams daily, after food. Ask your dentist.