Dental Care Overview
Being all you can be requires healthy teeth. However, poor oral care can lead to serious infections, tooth loss and expensive emergency medical treatment.
The Top 5 Dental Care Practices for Good Oral Health
Along with regular exams and other smart choices, regular oral care can help keep your teeth healthy for your entire lifetime. Here are five dental care practices that will help you protect and preserve your oral health.
1. Brush Your Teeth at Least Twice a Day
Basic dental care begins with brushing. Here’s how:
- Use a toothbrush that is right for you: toothbrushes vary in size, bristle strength, and other factors, and you should use one that allows you to reach all your tooth surfaces easily (ask your dentist or oral hygienist if you need help choosing)
- Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride
- Hold the brush against your teeth at a slight angle, and brush gently back and forth with short motions about the width of one tooth
- To brush the inside surfaces of front teeth, use a gentle up-and-down stroke
- Ensure that all the surfaces of your teeth – inner, outer, and chewing surfaces – are well brushed
- Finally, while you’re at it, brush your tongue gently to help remove any remaining bacteria and promote fresh breath
2. Floss Your Teeth Frequently
Oral health pros strongly recommend frequent flossing. Here are some tips:
- Use about eighteen inches of floss, wrap it around the pointer or middle fingers of each hand, and insert the floss gently into the crevice between your teeth
- Start at one end of the floss and move it through your fingers as you move from tooth to tooth, so each tooth crevice gets flossed with a clean, new section
- Gently rub the floss against the tooth and gum line; when you reach the gum line, place the floss in the space between the tooth and gum and press the floss lightly against the tooth while you move the floss up and down
- Work your way from one corner of your mouth all the way around to the beginning again, one tooth crevice at a time, including the back sides of the teeth at the ends of each row
- Explore different varieties of floss, floss holders, or interdental cleaners until you find what feels and works best for you
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
To maintain optimal oral health, eat a balanced diet with only a moderate amount of sweets or snacks. Some choices for snacking that are less prone to promote tooth decay include vegetables, nuts, and popcorn. To learn more about the important role diet plays in oral health, talk to your dentist, oral hygienist, or family doctor.
4. Get Regular Dental Exams and Cleanings
The best plan for good oral health is some kind of dental plan coverage. Dental plans help people to cover the costs of their dental care needs, from simple exams and cleanings to root canals, and everything in between. A wide variety of dental plans, features, and services are available.
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Your Dental Care Routine
Do you have a dental care routine? Having a regular dental care routine can help ensure that your teeth and mouth get the attention they need and deserve. Here are a few tips for establishing your routine.
Like all routines, dental care takes preparation. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss are the most important item for establishing your routine. Be sure you have extras on hand so that you are never without them.
Make it Personal
Make your routine truly personal. There are many ways to do this. For example, decide whether you are going to brush in the morning before or after you dress for work. In the evening, you might decide to brush before or after putting on your pajamas. Make your own personal decisions about these things, then work to make your personal choices into new, healthy habits.
Dental Care Benefits: The Power of a Healthy Smile
A friendly, beaming and healthy smile generally puts people at ease and makes others feel welcome. However, years of studies show that a good smile can do much more. A great smile predicts a longer lifespan and can improve both mood and relationships.
Bigger Smiles for Longer Lives
Research suggests that the bigger your smile, the longer you’re likely to live. Wayne State University studied photos of Major League baseball players on 1950s-era baseball cards and found a correlation between the players’ lifespans and their smiles. Players who smiled on the cards’ photos lived, on average, up to seven years longer than those who did not smile.
Smiling Can Help Improve Your Mood
Researchers have also found that smiling leads to an improved mood. Smiling causes the brain to release endorphins and other mood-enhancing chemicals, so people who smile more naturally feel happier.
Smiling Improves Your Relationships
When they surveyed people in their current relationships and then compared their answers with their high school yearbook pictures from several decades ago, researchers found that those who reported the most happiness in their relationships also had some of the biggest smiles in their high school photos.
Dental Care Products: An Overview
The variety of choices we have for dental care products has grown rapidly in the past hundred years. Today, we have electric toothbrushes, water flossers, gum stimulators, whitening products, and denture preparations. These, and more, are included in the following overview of dental care products.
The history of the toothbrush goes all the way back to at least 5000 years before the current era (BCE), according to Thomas P. Connelly, D.D.S. However, toothbrush, as we know it, only arrived on the scene in the 1930s thanks to the invention of nylon, which quickly found its way into toothbrushes in the form of bristles.
- What it does: Toothbrushes help scrape away food particles and plaque, the film that forms on teeth after eating, which is the primary cause of tooth decay.
- Why it’s important: Aside from the fact that chewing on twigs is kind of gross, a sturdy, modern toothbrush is the first and best way to keep your teeth clean and healthy.
- Who should use it: Only people who want to keep their teeth.
With electricity came a whole flood of inventions such as the electric toothbrush.
- What it does: Everything a manual toothbrush does, but with far less actual work on your part.
- Why it’s important: According to Consumer Reports, it might not be all that important. The consumer watchdog has said, “electric and manual toothbrushes are equally effective as long as you brush teeth thoroughly for 2 minutes, twice a day.”
- Who should use it: Anyone able to use a manual toothbrush should be able to use an electric one. Kids, of course, may need a little help at first. And if arthritis or another problem affects your ability to use a manual toothbrush, an electric brush may be just what you need.
When did toothpaste make it’s first appearance? According to Dr. Connelly, “ancient Egyptians were making a ‘tooth powder’ as far back as 5000 BC,” using ox hooves, myrrh, eggshell fragments and pumice.
- What it does: Like soap, toothpaste lubricates and traps dirt – food particles, plaque, and other germs, in this case – so they can be rinsed away more easily.
- Why it’s important: While brushing goes a long way toward getting teeth clean, brushing with toothpaste is an even more effective combination. Dentists recommend you use toothpaste with fluoride.
- Who should use it: Just about everyone. Talk with your dentist about the right type for you and your family members.
With so many rinses to choose from, how can you narrow it down to make the best choice? Well, it may help to know that there are three basic categories of mouthwash: antiseptic rinses, mouthwashes that contain fluoride, and ones that offer cosmetic benefits.
- What they do: The antiseptic type attacks plaque and is intended to help fight tooth decay. Mouthwashes with fluoride also help fight tooth decay by making the enamel surfaces of your teeth resist plaque better. Finally, the cosmetic mouthwashes do little more than mask bad breath, though they may taste or feel refreshing as well.
- Why they’re important: Using a dental rinse may be very important in some cases, and it may not be recommended at all in other situations.
- Who should use them: Depending on a person’s situation and whom you ask, the question whether to use a daily mouthwash or oral rinse may have different answers.
Levi Spear Parmly, the “apostle of dental hygiene,” gets the credit for inventing dental floss around 1819. For Parmly, flossing was the most essential part of oral care. Today many, if not most, dentists agree.
- What it does: Dentists regularly recommend dental floss to help remove plaque from teeth and prevent it from building up between teeth.
- Why it’s important: Just as Parmly suspected, plaque build-up between teeth is the leading cause of dental diseases such as dental caries and gingivitis. Today, we know: regular flossing can eliminate up to 80% of plaque, according to the American Dental Association.
- Who should use it: As soon as children’s teeth begin touching one another, dentists recommend using dental floss once a day, either before or after brushing.
Sometimes called a water pick, a water flosser or irrigator is a dental cleaning device. You use it to spray a thin stream of water between your teeth and at the gum line.
- What it does: Water flossers remove particles of food and plaque to help prevent tooth decay.
- Why it’s important: According to Waterpik, the leading maker of water flossers, they “are clinically proven...to improve your gum health, remove plaque and bacteria, and reach areas that you can’t get to with a toothbrush or string floss.”
- Who should use it: Anyone can benefit from using a water flosser. However, you shouldn’t use them as a substitute for regular brushing and flossing.
Are you one of those people who just love relaxing into the dentist’s chair for a deep, intense dental cleaning? If so, you may have considered buying a dental pick or scaler for use at home. You may want to think again.
- What they do: Dental picks or scalers are the long metal tools with twisty, pointed ends that dentists and dental hygienists use to scrape away plaque, tartar, and stains.
- Why they’re important: Dental picks are tools designed for use by trained pros in specific situations. When used correctly by a pro, they are highly beneficial to your oral health.
- Who should use them: Unlike nylon toothbrush bristles or silk dental floss, this method is far too abrasive for regular use. It can be dangerous for at-home use, as well. After all, one little slip and you could end up with a bloody gum, or worse.
Who doesn’t love a good massage? Well, sometimes your gums need a nice massage, too. For that, a gum stimulator may be their best friend.
- What they do: Gum stimulation promotes blood flow to the gums, which helps keeps them youthful and healthy.
- Why they’re important: When used together with proper brushing and flossing, gum stimulation helps prevent periodontal disease.
- Who should use them: While it’s good for anyone to stimulate their gums from time to time, dentists typically recommend gum stimulators to help promote healthier gums for people who have receding gums or other gum diseases.
Most folks want white, vibrant teeth. However, expert teeth whitening can be costly. Having your teeth whitened by a dentist is always the safe way to go. For a more affordable choice, home teeth whitening products can help.
- What these products do: Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are the key ingredients used in most tooth whitening products. In each case, the peroxide gently bubbles away on tooth surfaces to scrub away the stains.
- Why they’re important: If getting whiter teeth at home is your goal, dentists generally agree using trays or strips delivers the most dazzling results.
- Who should use them: Using these products is generally a personal decision. Be sure to make it, if possible, with the advice of your dentist.
Just like people with real teeth, denture wearers must brush their dentures every day. Brushing dentures should be a daily part of denture care because it helps to remove food debris and stop plaque buildup on the surface. It also prevents dentures from getting permanent stains and helps the wearer’s mouth stay healthy.
- What denture care products do: Special toothbrushes, toothpastes, and other products are available for cleaning dentures.
- Why they’re important: Denture care products are milder than the products used on natural teeth in order to avoid damage to dentures.
- Who should use them: Only denture wearers or their caregivers should use these products. Do not use denture care products to clean natural teeth.
Emergency Dental Care Products
There are a number of specialty emergency dental care products available. Several retailers even offer a dental emergency first-aid kit. These generally contain most of what you’re likely to need for a dental emergency when there’s no dentist available.
- What they’re for: Several retailers offer dental repair kits with items to relieve tooth pain, hold loose fillings and crowns in place, or transport a knocked out tooth. The contents typically include things like tweezers, cotton, antimicrobial wipes, ibuprofen, and gauze.
- Why they’re important: These items could come in handy in the case of lost fillings, loose caps or crowns, teeth that have become dislodged, or a persistent toothache due to a cavity.
- Who should use them: Everyone wants to be prepared, but it’s not always necessary to buy a specialty kit. If you don’t want to go to the expense, you could check your regular first aid kit and see what types of additions would make it work for dental emergencies as well.
Dental Care Tips: Dealing with Sensitivity and Pain
People sometimes put off dealing with dental pain and sensitivity. Chances are, if you bring them to your dentist’s attention as early as possible, you won’t have to worry about facing any of their consequences again!
Treating Sensitive Teeth
Causes of oral pain also vary widely but include the following:
- A cracked or chipped tooth
- Tooth decay
- Worn tooth enamel
- Periodontal disease
- Receding gums
- Exposed tooth roots
Correctly identifying the cause of tooth pain is essential to proper treatment and improved oral health.
At-Home Treatment of Sensitive Teeth
Desensitizing toothpaste is often the first line of defense when you’re dealing with tooth sensitivity. This is widely available over the counter. If you have sensitive teeth, continue your twice-daily brushing routine. However, reduce pressure when you brush and consider using a brush with softer bristles. You should also avoid brushing directly after eating foods with high acidity, like tomatoes and citrus fruit. This is because acidic foods weaken tooth enamel.
In-Office Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity
In some cases, a visit to the dentist may be in order. Many in-office treatments, including those that combat sensitivity, are covered by dental insurance. These treatments may include:
- A fluoride gel treatment to help reduce sensitivity
- Fillings or crowns
- A root canal
- Inlay or bonding
After treating your tooth sensitivity issue, your dentist will likely schedule a follow-up visit within a month. This will help them ensure the treatment is working. It also gives them a chance to check for additional issues that may affect your smile.
Guidelines for treatment of dental pain
Dental pain can be excruciating. Many patients ask dentists for opioid medications without attempting to treat the pain with other medications. However, researchers found that adults who took opioids or drug combinations that included them experienced the most adverse side effects. The side effects included drowsiness, respiratory depression, nausea or vomiting, and constipation.
On the other hand, the researchers found a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen provided relief superior to the opioids studied. Always consult with your dentist or physician before using any pain medication.
If you are affected by one of these problems but aren’t sure about the severity, you’ll get all the answers you need with just a single trip to the dentist.