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Dental Care Basics

Since your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, the condition of your oral health plays an enormous role in your overall health. This means in order to live a happy and healthy life you need to be sure to schedule regular visits with your dental health care provider. You should also establish a consistent oral hygiene routine at home. Keeping your teeth and gums in good shape will reduce your risk of certain types of cancers, pneumonia and cardiovascular disease.

In order to keep you and your family in good dental health you should educate yourself on the following dental care topics.

How Plaque Attacks the Teeth

Plaque has a bad reputation for a reason. It’s a sticky, clear substance that forms on the teeth after you eat food or drink a beverage. This filmy substance is responsible for both tooth decay and gum disease. When you eat or drink something, the bacteria lets out acids that attack and wear down the enamel of your tooth. Enamel is the thin outer covering of your tooth. It’s a hard tissue; in fact, it’s the hardest in the human body. However, the acid released from plaque eventually weaken the enamel, making the tooth more susceptible to cavities.

Failing to remove plaque from the teeth via daily brushing and flossing leads to build up on the teeth and gumline. This build up then becomes calculus or tartar deposits. Eventually, this build up could lead to the development of gum inflammation, also known as gingivitis.

Learning to Spot Gingivitis

Gingivitis affects somewhere around 75% of Americans at some point in their lifetimes. It’s also the number one cause of bleeding gums in adults. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum (or periodontal) disease, but it is completely treatable if caught in the early stages.

Many people don’t feel any pain when they have gingivitis, so they have no clue that they have the disease. This is why you should have dental checkups performed routinely. When gingivitis isn’t treated in the early stages, the plaque will continue to form along the gumline and on the teeth. It will then progress into a severe form of gum disease known as periodontitis. Advanced gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed below, you may have gingivitis.

  • Sore or tender gums
  • Gums that are purple or dark red
  • Puffy or swollen gums
  • Bleeding during brushing or flossing
  • Bad breath that won’t go away
  • Teeth that are sensitive to hot and cold
  • Loose teeth
  • A change in your bite

Keeping plaque from accumulating on your teeth and gums is the best way to prevent gingivitis. If you believe that you have gum disease, you should book an appointment with a dental professional as soon as you can. Your dental hygienist will be able to use special equipment to eliminate the plaque and tartar buildup from your teeth and gums.

Understanding Cavities

Plaque not only causes gum disease. It is also responsible for tooth decay or cavities. As the acid caused by the bacteria in plaque damages the tooth’s enamel, it leads to small holes developing in the tooth. These holes are also known as cavities or dental caries. Untreated, these cavities will become bigger and deeper, affecting the deeper layers of the teeth. This results in painful toothaches, infections and the loss of your teeth.

The Mayo Clinic says that cavities and tooth decay are common around the world. While the American Dental Association (ADA) says that it is a common childhood disease and it also impacts older adults and infants. Symptoms of tooth decay include:

  • Feeling pain when you bite down or chew
  • Being sensitive to sweet, hot or cold foods or drinks
  • Having a sudden toothache that occurs without a cause
  • Seeing visible holes or pits in your teeth

Many times, you won’t even know that a cavity is forming until it is too late. However, regular dental checkups and cleanings will ensure that your dentist will spot cavities before they become a bigger issue. Leaving a cavity untreated can cause you to lose a tooth entirely. It can also lead to abscesses and serious health complications.

How to Take Care of Your Teeth at Home

Taking care of your teeth and gums at home is one of the best ways to ensure that they stay healthy.

Brushing: According to the ADA, you should be brushing your teeth twice a day with either a soft-bristle toothbrush or an electric toothbrush. You should use toothpaste with fluoride in it. Your dentist may prescribe you a customized treatment plan based on what your dental health and overall health risks. Other brushing suggestions include:

  • Making sure you brush your teeth for at least two minutes
  • Brushing your tongue to get rid of odor-causing bacteria
  • Changing your toothbrush at least every three months
  • Replacing your toothbrush immediately after having a cold, the flu or any kind of mouth infection

Flossing: You should be flossing your teeth every day. When you floss properly, you not only remove plaque, you also remove food particles that are caught between your teeth. This can help keep plaque from building up. It can also prevent tooth decay and bad breath.

Mouthwash: Your dentist may recommend that you utilize an antibacterial mouth rinse after brushing and flossing. This can help to reduce bacteria levels in your mouth. It can also help to remove food particles that still remain after brushing and flossing. You should swish the mouthwash around in your mouth for at least 30 seconds. Find a mouthwash that has the ADA seal of approval on it.

Healthy eating and drinking: The ADA states that eating an unhealthy diet can lead to problems with your oral health, such as tooth decay and gum disease. Foods and drinks that are full of sugars, starches and carbohydrates, further encourage the development of plaque. The ADA suggests that you eat a balanced diet including lean proteins, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and nuts. You should also drink tap water that has fluoride added to it, in order to prevent tooth decay.

The Importance of Visiting a Dentist

While it’s imperative that you follow an at-home oral hygiene routine, you should also be seeing a dentist on a regular basis. This allows you to develop a good relationship with a dentist who will know your complete dental and medical history. This kind of relationship will save you time, money and stress. This is because regular dental visits can help to detect potential issues early on, when they are less expensive to treat.

The ADA suggests that you go for a dental check-up twice a year and that you receive regular professional cleanings. These cleanings get rid of the plaque and tartar that regular brushing and flossing can’t reach. If you have special dental health needs, your dentist may recommend that you visit more often. At your check-ups, your dentist will examine your mouth to look for any signs of gingivitis and tooth decay. Other things your dentist may look for include signs of teeth grinding (bruxism), changes in your bite and symptoms of TMJ.

The dentist may also want to take X-rays at your visit. This will assist the dentist in detecting issues that can’t be seen by the naked eye. These issues include things like bone loss, decay between the teeth, abscesses, cysts, tumors and tooth fractures.

Seeing your dentist at least two times a year also means that you will be receiving regular oral cancer screenings. These are incredibly important, as oral cancer is difficult to detect in its earliest stages. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research found that oral cancer makes up around 3% of cancers diagnoses each year in the United States, which is approximately 49,700 cases.

Oral cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer diagnosed in men. In fact, men are more likely than women to have oral cancer. Those who drink alcohol or smoke are at an even higher risk of this disease.

Finding Excellent Dental Care

By establishing a consistent relationship with a dental health care professional, receiving regular cleanings and following an at-home oral health regimen, you should be able to keep your teeth and gums healthy for a lifetime.

To make an appointment with a compassionate and affordable dentist, call our office today. Alternatively, you can book an appointment with us online. We look forward to assisting you with your dental care needs.

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