Oral Hygiene

Although 80% of adults will experience Periodontal Disease in their lifetime, it is a preventable disease. Prevention begins at home with daily brushing, flossing and oral irrigation as well as 6 month visits to your dentist. The following is some suggestions on keeping your teeth clean while maintaining a healthy, functioning dentition.

Dental Floss

Periodontal disease and tooth decay (cavities) usually occur between the teeth where your toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing is a very effective way to remove plaque and food debris from those surfaces. However, it is important to develop the proper technique. The following instructions will help you, but remember it takes time and practice.

Start with a piece of floss (waxed is easier) about 18″ long. Lightly wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand. Wrap the rest of the floss around the middle finger of the other hand. Make sure your hands are clean and dry.

To clean the upper teeth, hold the floss tightly between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Gently insert the floss tightly between the teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Do not force the floss or try to snap it into place. Bring the floss to the gumline then curve it into a C-shape against one tooth. Slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth until you feel light resistance. Move the floss up and down on the side of one tooth. Remember there are two tooth surfaces that need to be cleaned in each space. Continue to floss each side of all the upper teeth. Be careful not to cut the gum tissue between the teeth. As the floss becomes soiled, turn from one finger to the other to get a fresh section.

To clean between the bottom teeth, guide the floss using the forefinger of both hands. Do not forget the back side of the last tooth on both sides, upper and lower.

When you are done, rinse vigorously with water to remove plaque and food particles. Do not be alarmed if during the first few weeks of flossing your gums bleed or are a little sore. If your gums hurt while flossing you could be doing it too hard or pinching the gum. As you floss daily and remove the plaque your gums will heal and the bleeding should stop. This needs to be done once every 24 hours.

Electric Toothbrush

Our office recommends that everyone use a power rechargeable toothbrush which offers superior plaque and food removal results. However, if a hand toothbrush is all that is available then the following is recommended: Use a soft, sensitive or ultra-sensitive bristle toothbrush. While brushing the outside surfaces of your teeth, position the brush at a 45-degree angle where your gums and teeth meet. Gently move the brush in a circular motion several times using small, gentle strokes. Use light pressure while putting the bristles between the teeth, but not so much pressure that you feel any discomfort.

When you are done cleaning the outside surfaces of all your teeth, follow the same directions while cleaning the inside of the back teeth.

To clean the inside surfaces of the upper and lower front teeth, hold the brush vertically. Make several gentle back-and-forth strokes over each tooth. Don’t forget to gently brush the surrounding gum tissue.

Next you will clean the biting surfaces of your teeth. To do this use short, gentle strokes. Change the position of the brush as often as necessary to reach and clean all surfaces. Try to watch yourself in the mirror to make sure you clean each surface. Then gently brush the top of your tongue with the bristles reaching as far as possible to the back of your tongue and gently pull the toothbrush outward until the entire surface has been brushed, careful not to gag yourself. After you are done, rinse vigorously to remove any plaque you might have loosened while brushing. This should take two to three to four minutes to complete if you have all of your teeth.

We recommend you use an ADA approved toothpaste. We do not recommend tarter control or whitening toothpastes. These tend to be more abrasive and over time could damage your teeth and cause increased tooth/root sensitivity. If you have any discomfort while brushing or have any questions about how to brush properly, please be sure to call the office.

Oral Irrigator

Our office recommends the use of an oral irrigator to effectively reduce harmful bacteria, debris, and microscopic particles between the teeth and below the gumline. The unit is especially useful in removing food particles around crowns, bridges, orthodontic braces and dental implants.  Some patients may not be able to use the oral irrigator due to health conditions. Listed below are medical conditions that will not allow you to utilize an oral irriagator without physician approval. Our office will help you if you have any questions.

Contraindications to oral irrigation include: mitral valve prolapse, artificial joints and heart valves, cancer patients on chemotherapy, history of rheumatic fever as well as some immune disorders. Please contact your dentist, physician or our office if you have questions.

How to use an oral irrigator

Plug in unit into a 110-120 volt A.C. outlet. Fill the reservoir with lukewarm water almost to the top &/or fill line. Insert the jet tip into the opening on the handle. Turn pressure control knob to the ‘low to medium’ or ‘1-6’ number setting depending on your experience with the unit. Insert tip into your mouth, lean your head over the sink and then press the on/off button to start the water flow. Let the water flow out of the mouth while leaning over the sink.

Do not move head around too far, as this will cause a mess in your sink- vanity area. Direct the stream of water toward the gumline at a 90 degree angle, so that contact with the jet tip is made where the tooth and gum meet (gumline). Maneuver the flow of the water from tooth to tooth remembering to pause briefly at each tooth starting from one side and continue to the other side. Start on the cheek side of the teeth and then go to the tongue side of the teeth of one arch and then do the same for the other arch continuing in this formation until all the water is gone.

Depending on the reservoir size, the number of teeth you have present and/or the amount of restorative (crowns, bridges, implants, braces) work present in your mouth you may need to fill the reservoir two times during each use. The oral irrigator should be used once every twelve hours or first thing in the morning after breakfast and in the evening before bed, unless otherwise prescribed by our office.

Caring for Sensitive Teeth

Sometimes after dental treatment, teeth are sensitive to hot and cold. This should not last long, but only if the mouth is kept clean. If the mouth is not kept clean the sensitivity will remain and could become more severe. If your teeth are especially sensitive consult with your Periodontist or general dentist. They may recommend a medicated toothpaste or mouth rinse made especially for sensitive teeth. (See sensitive teeth)

Choosing Oral Hygiene Products

There are so many products on the market it can become confusing and difficult choosing between all the products. Here are some suggestions for choosing dental care products that will work for most patients.

Automatic and “high-tech” electronic rechargeable toothbrushes are safe and effective for the majority of patients. Oral irrigators (water spraying devices) will rinse your mouth thoroughly and will reduce bacterial toxins, but will not remove sticky/attached bacteria (plaque). You need to brush and floss in conjunction with the oral irrigator. We see excellent results with electric toothbrushes.

Some toothbrushes have a rubber tip on the handle, this is used to massage the gums after brushing. There are also tiny brushes (interproximal toothbrushes) that can help you clean between your teeth. If these are used improperly you could injure the gums, so discuss proper use with your Periodontist or Hygienist.

Fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses if used in conjunction with brushing and flossing can reduce tooth decay as much as 40%. Remember, these rinses are not recommended for children under six years of age. Tartar control toothpastes will reduce tartar above the gum line, but gum disease starts below the gumline so these products have not been proven to reduce the early stages of gum disease. These brands are not recommended if your under the care of a Periodontist especially if you have root sensitivity or are utilizing an electric toothbrush.

Anti-plaque rinses, approved by the American Dental Association, contain agents that may help bring gingivitis under control. Use these in conjunction with brushing, flossing and oral irrigation.

Your Periodontist or Periodontal Dental Hygienist is the best person to help you select the right products that are best for you.