Surprisingly few people think more about oral hygiene than giving their teeth a quick daily brush, until, that is, they have to visit the dentist by which time the damage is done. Yet tooth decay, and a far deadlier enemy, gum disease, can be kept at bay with simple care and attention to all aspects of oral hygiene.
Oral hygiene instructions
In its early stages, gum disease is quite painless and, as such, often goes unnoticed, so it is usually left untreated until severe dental treatment is needed. Gums that bleed, particularly during brushing, persistent bad breath, and swollen or inflamed gums are all indications of gum disease gingivitis in its early stages. So, if you notice any of these symptoms visits your dentist at once.
One of the major causes of gum disease is plaque a sticky, bacteria-ridden film that forms on the teeth and which, unless removed regularly, builds up and hardens into what is known as tartar or calculus.
Tartar forms around the base of the tooth and can lead to a serious form of gum disease called pyorrhea. This causes the gums to loosen and recede, otherwise, perfectly healthy teeth may fall out or need to be removed, simply because there is nothing left to support them.
The plaque fighters
The only way to combat plaque is to remove it regularly by effective brushing. You should use dental floss to get to less easily accessible areas of the teeth along the gum line for instance that a brush cannot reach.
To floss properly, cut off about 15 inches (38cm) of floss and wrap the two ends around the middle fingers of each hand. Stretch the floss tightly across your thumb or index finger on one hand and the index finger on the other. Work the floss gently back and forth between two teeth down to the gum.
Then loop the floss around the side of one tooth in a curve, holding the floss with your fingers as close to the teeth as possible, and move it gently up and down in a scraping movement. Loop the floss the other way, clean the adjacent tooth, and so on. Wind on to a fresh area of floss and treat the other teeth in the same way.
You may find that your gums bleed a little at first, particularly if they have been neglected, but a few days of correct flossing should put a stop to this, and make them healthier. Rinse the mouth with salt and water in the meantime to help the healing process.
Larger spaces between teeth can be kept plaque-free by using either an inter-space toothbrush, which has a tiny head specially designed to get at awkward areas in the mouth or a soft, inter-space toothpick. Use the toothpick with a gentle to and fro movement, never prodding at gums, but lifting away the plaque from the edges of the teeth.
Most people brush their teeth too quickly; to be effective; cleaning your teeth should be a slow, unhurried process.
Use a brush with a small head so that it can get around the curves of the mouth easily. Soft nylon bristles keep their shape longer and won’t damage the gums. Clean the front of each tooth first. Hold the brush at an angle of 45° to the teeth, with some of the bristles overlapping the gum margin.
Move the brush from side to side over two or three teeth, using a gentle circular scribbling movement-for the front ones, you will need to hold the brush at a sharper angle, lengthwise on to the surface.
Next, clean the biting surfaces, using a flat on circular movement, making sure you get into every crevice. It should take at least three minutes to do all this properly so, if you think it’s routine you have been skimping on, time yourself.
A really thorough brush and floss every evening followed by a morning brush is enough to stop plaque building up. Any film left on the teeth after meals can be removed by rinsing with plain water.
But remember that however good you are at cleaning your teeth, you should still visit your dentist at least twice a year for a check-up and a professional scaling and polishing job.
Eating for healthy teeth and gums
The amount of plaque present around the teeth is determined by the type of food you eat. Plaque feeds on sugar and, in the process, produces a strong acid-it is this acid which eats into the tooth enamel and causes to the decay.
However, it is not the total quantity of sugary food eaten that causes decay so much as how often sugary food is present in the mouth and in contact with the plaque. So, if you must eat a lot of sweet foods, eat them all at once, if possible, rather than at intervals during the day, and clean your teeth afterward.
Protein is essential for healthy teeth and gums plus plenty of calcium and vitamins, particularly vitamins B and C. Raw fruits and vegetables are excellent for helping to clean teeth, but should not be seen as substitutes for brushing your teeth every day.
Keeping your breath fresh
Mouthwashes, mints, cachous, and chlorophyll tablets can all help disguise bad breath (halitosis), but you should tackle the problem at the source and try to eliminate it, rather than cover it up. Apart from poor oral hygiene, bad breath can be caused by eating or drinking regularly, mouth ulcers, digestive problems, and certain foods.
No matter how attractive you look, people will be offended by bad breath, so don’t let it spoil your appearance. Take the advice given here and you will feel completely confident about yourself.
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