General Dental Hygiene Tips

The following information can help you and your family take good care of your teeth.

How to Brush Your Teeth

  • Choose a good toothbrush. A soft brush with a small head is the best choice. This type of brush is hard enough to remove plaque and soft enough not to damage your teeth or gums.
  • Choose a toothpaste. In general, any toothpaste that contains fluoride will do the job, unless you have a special need identified by your dentist.
  • Brush from one side to another. Begin brushing in a specific location and work your way to the opposite side and all the way through the whole mouth, so that you end where you started. This way you won’t miss any area.
  • Take your time. A good brushing should take at least 2 minutes and ideally around 4 minutes.
  • Brush after each meal or twice a day. If you can’t brush after each meal, brush at least twice a day, after breakfast and before going to bed.

How to Floss Your Teeth

  • Flossing is critical to clean surfaces between the teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach.
  • Ideally, floss after each meal. At a minimum, you should floss at least once a day, before going to bed.
  • Start with a good-size piece of floss. Cut off a piece of dental floss, about 2 feet in length. Wrap both sides of the floss around your middle fingers.
  • Move the floss between the teeth one-by-one. Using your index and thumb move the floss in between all your teeth one by one. Make sure you are not pressing into the gum.
  • Hug the sides of each tooth with the floss. In each space between the teeth, press the floss against the side of each tooth (hug the tooth).
  • Move the floss back and forth, up and down. Then move to the opposite surface of the adjacent tooth.

Electric Brushes vs. Manual Brushes

Multiple studies have compared the effectiveness of manual versus electric brushes. While not all electric brushes are the same, studies show that electric brushes in general are more effective at controlling plaque than manual brushes. The movements of an electric brush can make tooth brushing easier and more efficient. Some electric brushes (Sonicare) have sonic vibration that isn’t possible with a regular toothbrush. Other electric brushes such as Oral-B and Rotadent have small heads to clean hard-to-reach areas of your mouth.

Bad Breath

Bad breath can have different sources – from stomach conditions to diet to teeth problems. Most of the causes start in the mouth. They can include:

  • Bacteria on the tongue (when bacteria grow in between the small bumps on the tongue known as papillae)
  • Tooth cavities (especially when food particles are stuck in them)
  • Gum diseases
  • Extraction sites during healing
  • Dentures when not cleaned properly
  • Alcohol and tobacco

If you or someone you know is concerned about bad breath, the first step is a dental check-up. Your dentist will be able to confirm or rule out teeth or mouth as the source of bad breath. Once the cause is identified, your dentist will discuss treatment. If the source is in your mouth, mouthwashes or mints most likely won’t be effective in the long-term. While these remedies can mask bad breath temporarily, they may also worsen the problem since many mouthwashes contain alcohol. Practicing good oral hygiene and having regular check-ups with the dentist are the best ways to prevent bad breath.

Dental Health and Your Diet

When we talk about dental decay, sugar is a major culprit. More important than the amount of sugar you eat is how often you eat it. Eating or drinking something sweet during a long period of time – such as holding a soda and taking a sip every few minutes — creates a constant supply of sugar for the bacteria that cause tooth decay. If you want to have a snack or a soda or juice, it’s better to have it after food, as dessert, or have it in one sitting. It’s also important to remember that sugar comes from many sources – not just from sweets but from food that can turn into sugar, like bread. Cutting down your sugar intake is important not just for cavity prevention, but for general health. When you do have sugar, the best way to avoid cavities is to prevent the sugar from staying next to your teeth. Brushing after eating sugar, rinsing your mouth with fluoride mouthwash or chewing sugarless gum can help.

Fluoride and Decay Prevention

Many years ago, scientists started noticing that children born and raised in areas with fluoride in their drinking water had fewer cavities than children in other areas. Fluoride that is absorbed by your body when teeth are forming (during the mother’s pregnancy to early childhood) integrates into the structure of enamel and makes it stronger. Fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwash helps to strengthen the enamel of your teeth and reduce the chance of tooth decay. If you have children and live in an area that doesn’t have fluoride in the drinking water, you should consult your dentist or physician about fluoride tablets available for children.

Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Periodontal disease or gum disease is a common, and sometimes silent, condition in many adults. It requires a much more meticulous and time consuming cleaning. Periodontal disease is an inflammation and/or infection of the gums and bone which support the teeth, resulting from bacterial plaque and its toxic by-products. This can overwhelm the mouth’s defenses, resulting in unhealthy gum tissue and abnormal pockets around the roots. Left untreated, periodontal disease can result in tooth loss, and put you at higher risk for other health conditions.

Mouth and Body Connection

In recent years, doctors and researchers have discovered a mouth-body connection, which indicates links between gum disease and several medical conditions. Gum disease has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, premature birth and low birth-weight babies. Consult with your dentist if you have or are at risk for:

  • heart disease or high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • cancer, particularly pancreatic cancer
  • are pregnant or planning to become pregnant

Just as genetics, exercise, nutrition, stress and personal habits contribute to an individual’s overall wellness, scientists are discovering more and more connections between the mouth and body

Symptoms of gum disease

If you see any of the following signs of gum disease, you should see your dentist immediately:

  • Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth.
  • Red, swollen, or tender gums, or pus between your teeth and gums.
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth.
  • Bad breath that doesn’t go away.
  • Loose teeth.
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.

Basics of Good Oral Hygiene

  • Brush your teeth properly twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner. Decay-causing bacteria linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can’t reach. Flossing removes plaque and food particles between the teeth and under the gum line.
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.

FAQs

About Our Practice

 

Do I need someone to drive me home after surgery, or can I drive? 

If you are receiving sedation, you will need a responsible adult to drive you home and to remain with you for several hours following surgery. You should not operate any vehicle or hazardous device on the day of surgery. Patients receiving local anesthetic or nitrous oxide can drive home or have a driver whichever is preferred.

 

May I eat before I come in for surgery?

If you are receiving IV sedation for your procedure, you can have nothing at all to eat or drink for a minimum of six full hours prior to your appointment. Persons receiving local anesthetic and nitrous oxide may eat a light meal prior to the appointment.

Will antibiotics cure a root canal infection?

Antibiotics cannot cure a root canal infection because the source of the infection is inside the tooth where there is no blood supply; without blood supply there is no mechanism to deliver antibiotics. The cure is the complete shaping, cleaning and obturation (sealing) of the contaminated root canal space.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Approximately 75 percent of all Americans have some form of periodontal disease, known by many as gum disease. These usually painless diseases often can go undetected until its too late. If left untreated, gum disease can destroy the bone and tissue surrounding the teeth, causing them to become loose and, in some cases, painful. In addition, gum disease can cause bad breath and change the appearance of your smile. If the condition progresses far enough, you can loose your teeth. Periodontal disease affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. You may have it and not even know it. There are no early warning signs, except for occasional bleeding and redness around the gums when brushing, and mouth odor. However, as the disease progresses, the symptoms become more obvious. If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to loosening of teeth, receding gums, and gum discomfort. 

 

What type of toothbrush should I use?

The brand of the toothbrush is not as critical as the type of bristle and the size of the head. A soft toothbrush with a small head is recommended because medium and hard brushes tend to cause irritation and contribute to recession of the gums, and a small head allows you to get around each tooth more completely and is less likely to injure your gums. It’s unnecessary to “scrub” the teeth as long as you are brushing at least twice a day and visiting your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings.  

How often should I floss?

Flossing of the teeth once per day helps to prevent cavities from forming between the teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing also helps to keep your gums healthy.

 

Why should I see a periodontist?

Dentistry can be compared to medicine and its specialties. Your family dentist is like your family physician. He or she can treat a wide range of needs and help keep you in good health. Like your family physician, your general dentist will advise you to see a specialist when it is necessary. Your periodontal disease can progress to the point where a specialist, your periodontist, has been recommended. Your periodontist has treatment and diagnostic skills to treat your disease in cooperation with your general dentist. Aside for treating periodontal diseases, there are other reasons to visit your periodontist. If you are missing one or more teeth, and are considering dental implants, your periodontist can help you decide if they are appropriate for you. He or she also is trained to work with you and your general dentist or prosthodontist when missing teeth are being replaced with dental implants. In addition, your periodontist also can help create proper gum appearance to improve your smile. Just because you have started to see a periodontist doesn’t mean you should stop seeing your general dentist. Your periodontist will work in cooperation with your general dentist to treat your periodontal disease, and help coordinate your dental care. 

How did I get periodontal disease?

Periodontal diseases can be accelerated by a number of different factors, however, it’s mainly caused by the bacteria found on dental plaque, a sticky colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. If not careful removed by daily brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar). Bacteria found in plaque produces toxin or poisons that irritate the gums, which may cause them to turn red, swell and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth, causing pockets (spaces) to form. As periodontal diseases progress, the supporting gum tissue and bone that hold teeth in place deteriorate. Left untreated, this leads to tooth loss. The best way to prevent gum disease is effective daily brushing and flossing as well as regular professional examinations and cleanings. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home dental care, people still can develop some form of periodontal disease. Once this disease gets started. professional interventions is necessary to prevent its progress. 

What can I expect the first time I visit my periodontist?

It will remind you a lot of going to your family dentist. Remember, periodontists are dentists, too. Your periodontist will review your complete medical and dental history with you. It’s extremely important for your periodontist to know if your are taking any medications (both prescriptions and over-the-counter) or if your are being treated for any condition that can affect your periodontal care. You then will be given a complete oral and periodontal examination. Your periodontist will examine your gums, check to see if there is any gumline recession, assess how your teeth fit together when you bite and check your teeth to see if any are loose. After that, your periodontist will take a small measuring instrument and insert it between your teeth and gums to determine the depth of those spaces, known as periodontal pockets. This helps your periodontist assess the health of your gums. This examination is so simple, your may barely feel it. Next, radiographs (x-rays) will be used to show the bone levels between your teeth to check for possible bone loss. 

 

What causes periodontal disease?

Bacteria are the primary cause of periodontal infection. Bacteria form in plaque, which is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms over the teeth and destroys bone. Plaque that is not removed by regular brushing and flossing hardens into tartar over time. You cannot remove tartar (or calculus) on your own. The only way to remove tartar is by a procedure called scaling, which is done by a dentist.  

I don’t have gum disease, do I?

Periodontal diseases are quite common. In fact, 75% of us have some form of them, although they can be known be different names. Some common names for periodontal disease are: Periodontitis, pyorrhea, gum disease, trench mouth. Most people don’t know they have periodontal (gum) disease, or even that the specialty of periodontics exists, until their dentist brings it to their attention. One of the reasons it comes as a surprise is that periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis, gum disease, or pyorrhea) is a silent disease, with few obvious symptoms in its early stages. Periodontitis is a chronic disease. It takes a long time to develop and can be characterized by short periods of rapid tissue breakdown, followed by long periods of quiescence. With treatment, a periodontal condition can be controlled and maintained. It is important to note that treating periodontal disease takes a team effort: Your dentist, your periodontist, and you. 

How do you know you have periodontal disease?

The signs are subtle at first, and often can only be detected by a dentist or hygienist. These professionals are trained to look for:

  • Pockets: Pockets occur when the collar of gum becomes infected and detaches from the tooth – creating a space. This space is a “pocket.” Your dental exams should include “checking for pockets.” If your dentist is not, ask them to do so.
  • Bleeding: In spite of its common occurrence, gums are not supposed to bleed any more than fingers, ears, or noses do on their own. If any of those start hemorrhaging, everyone knows to stop the bleeding, and look into it if it recurs. But when gums continue to bleed, many simply ignore it, as if it were “normal.” Bleeding gums are not normal. When gums bleed, at the very least, a minor, reversible problem exists. Sometimes the bleeding is a sign that there are deeper problems, and without some kind of treatment, pockets and bone loss will continue to occur.
  • Bone loss: Dental x-rays, taken at regular intervals, chronicle bone levels surrounding the teeth. Subtle changes can be seen, and when they are observed, they are definite markers that periodontal breakdown is occurring. Bone loss left untreated, progresses until teeth are compromised. Fact: seventy percent of all teeth removed from adults is from bone loss due to periodontal disease not decay. Loose teeth: Often early signs of loose teeth are detected by the dentist or hygienist, not by the person.
  • Looseness in teeth is a sign that something is wrong. When discovered, the cause needs to be determined and corrected. Spaces forming between front teeth: In general, teeth don’t shift their position, though crowding of the lower (mandibular) front incisors does occur as we age. However, when spaces start forming between some of the upper (maxillary) front teeth, it’s time to figure out why. Sometimes, so many new dental restorations have been placed on the back teeth, that the front teeth shift. This happens. But the more common reason for front teeth to flare out is due to advanced bone loss and the lack of tooth support that comes with progressive periodontal disease. Once it occurs, it should be treated before it gets worse.
  • Halitosis: Bad breath may be a sign that significant periodontal problems exist in someone’s mouth. Once the periodontal problems are under control, bad breath often goes away.
  • Abscess: Occasionally, the first time a person knows they have a gum problem is when they get a periodontal abscess. An abscess occurs when bacteria are trapped in a gum pocket. They have no way of escaping and the pocket expands, forming an abscess. If treated in time, little damage is done to the surrounding bone and tooth. Not treating an abscess in time, can lead to rapid and severe bone loss. When this happens, additional periodontal treatment is needed. Like all chronic diseases, periodontal disease doesn’t go away. It won’t get better by itself. It can remain silent and in remission, only to act up at a later date. As the condition worsens, it’s harder to successfully treat. That’s why once gum problems are noticed or diagnosed, it’s best to initiate treatment as soon as possible.

 

What’s the difference between a crown and a cap?

These are restorations to repair a severely broken tooth by covering all or most of the tooth after removing old fillings, fractured tooth structure, and all decay. The restoration material is made of gold, porcelain, composites, or even stainless steel. Dentists refer to all of these restorations as “crowns”. However, patients often refer to the tooth-colored ones as “caps” and the gold or stainless steel ones as “crowns”. 

What’s the difference between a bridge and a partial denture?

Both bridges and partial dentures replace missing teeth. A bridge is permanently attached to abutment teeth or, in some cases, implants. A partial denture is attached by clasps to the teeth and is easily removed by the patient. Patients are usually more satisfied with bridges than with partial dentures

Do I need to have a root canal because I have a crown?

No. While most teeth that have had root canal treatments do need crowns to strengthen the teeth and to return the teeth to normal form and function, not every tooth needing a crown also needs to have a root canal.

Will my tooth hurt after the treatment?

Following root canal treatment, there may be soreness in the area of the treated tooth for several days. This is normal and due to a healing response at the root ends and the injection sites. The amount of discomfort depends on the type of infection you have, or condition of the pulp when you presented for treatment. See the patient instruction section for more information on home care after your appointment.

Do I need to see my general dentist after treatment?

When your root canal therapy has been completed, a report from your treatment will be sent to your dentist. You should contact his or her office for a follow-up visit within a few weeks of completion at our office. Your restorative dentist will decide on what type of restoration, either a crown or filling, is necessary to protect your tooth. If a problem occurs after endodontic treatment, we are available at all times to respond or answer any questions. 

What happens after treatment?

When your root canal therapy has been completed, a record of your treatment will be sent to your restorative dentist. You should contact his office for a follow-up restoration within a few weeks of completion at our office. Your restorative dentist will decide on what type of restoration is necessary to protect your tooth. It is rare for endodontic patients to experience complications after routine endodontic treatment or microsurgery. If a problem does occur, however, please call our office. 

 

Can I maintain a normal diet after my root canal treatment?

Eat softer foods for the first 48 hours or so and chew everything on the untreated side to allow the treated tooth/teeth to heal. Contact sensitivity is normal. 

 

Can I return to my normal exercise regimen after treatment?

Absolutely. However, if you engage in high impact exercise, you should wait to see what degree of post treatment sensitivity you experience.  

How soon after my treatment do I have to follow-up with my family dentist for the permanent restoration?

In most cases a temporary filling is placed on your tooth at the end of your treatment appointment. This temporary filling is only meant to last 4-6 weeks, after which it will start to break down. We strongly recommend that you schedule your appointment with your family dentist for the permanent filling two weeks after your root canal treatment.