Caring for your teeth

Written by Super User on . Posted in Questions & Answers

Dentists understand the importance of a healthy mouth. That's why we continue to provide expert, toothbrush1independent and impartial advice on all aspects of oral health. Our "Questions & Answers pages" provide a wide range of oral health information in a simply Q&A format and produced and reviewed by qualified dental professionals.

Our health advice and information can help you rediscover your smile and help improve the quality of not just your oral health, but your overall health too.

 

Caring for your teeth

Q: Why are my teeth so important?

A: Your teeth vary in shape and size depending on where they are in your mouth. These differences allow the teeth to do many different jobs. Teeth help us to chew and digest food. They help us to talk, and to pronounce different sounds clearly. Finally, teeth help to give our face its shape. A healthy smile can be a great asset; and because this is so important, it makes sense to give your teeth the best care possible.

Q: What can go wrong?

A: Tooth decay can be painful and lead to fillings, crowns or inlays. If tooth decay is not treated, the nerve of the tooth can become infected and die, causing an abscess. This may then need root canal treatment or even for the tooth to be removed. It is very important that you keep up a good routine at home to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Gum disease is common and, if left untreated, may lead to bone loss around the teeth. In some cases it may lead to loose teeth and teeth being lost. Gum disease is preventable. It can be treated and kept under control with regular cleaning sessions and check-ups, preventing further problems. If teeth are lost, it may be necessary to fill the gaps with bridges, dentures or implants.

Q: How do I keep my teeth and gums healthy?

A: It is easy to get your mouth clean and healthy, and keep it that way. A simple routine can help prevent most dental problems:

• brushing your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste
• cleaning between the teeth with 'interdental' brushes or floss at least once a day
• good eating habits - having sugary foods and drinks less often, and
• regular dental check-ups.

Although most people brush regularly, many don't clean between their teeth and some people don't have regular dental check-ups. A few small changes in your daily routine can make a big difference in the long term. Your dental team can remove any build-up on your teeth and treat any gum disease that has already appeared. But daily dental care is up to you, and the main weapons are the toothbrush, toothpaste and interdental cleaning (cleaning between your teeth).

Q: What is plaque and how can plaque cause decay?


A: Plaque is a thin, sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth.  When you eat foods containing sugars and starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids, which attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth. After constant acid attack, the tooth enamel breaks down forming a hole or cavity.

Q: How can plaque cause gum disease?

A: If plaque is not removed by brushing, it can harden into something called 'calculus' - another name for it is 'tartar'. As calculus forms near the gumline, the plaque underneath releases harmful poisons causing the gums to become irritated and inflamed. The gums start to pull away from the teeth and the gaps become infected. If gum disease is not treated promptly, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed, and healthy teeth can become loose and fall out. Severe gum disease can lead to teeth falling out and needing to be replaced.

Q: How can I prevent gum disease?

A: It is important to remove plaque and bits of food from around your teeth as this will stop your gums from becoming inflamed and swollen, and becoming infected. If you leave plaque on your teeth it can harden into tartar, which can only be removed by the dental team. It is important to keep up your regular appointments so that your teeth can have a thorough cleaning if they need it.

Q: Which type of toothbrush should I use?

A: Your dentist will be able to recommend a toothbrush suitable for you. However, adults should choose a small- to medium-sized brush toothbrush1head. This should have soft to medium, multi-tufted, round-ended nylon bristles or 'filaments'. The head should be small enough to reach into all parts of the mouth: especially the back of the mouth where it can be difficult to reach. Children need to use smaller brushes but with the same type of filaments.
You can now buy more specialised toothbrushes. For instance, people with sensitive teeth can now use softer-bristled brushes. There are also smaller-headed toothbrushes for people with crooked or irregular teeth.
Some people find it difficult to hold a toothbrush, for example because they have Parkinson's disease or a physical disability. There are now toothbrushes which have large handles and angled heads to make them easier to use.

Q: How do I know if I have gum disease?

A: Gum disease is generally painless, even though it damages the bone supporting the teeth. Gum disease (gingivitis) will usually show itself as red, swollen gums that bleed when you brush or clean between your teeth. Many people are worried when they notice their gums are bleeding and then brush more gently, or stop altogether. In fact, it is important that you continue to clean regularly and thoroughly if you are to fight the gum disease. If the bleeding does not go away within a few days see your dental team to ask for their advice.

Q: How should I brush my teeth and how often?

Brushing removes plaque and bits of food from the inner, outer and biting surfaces of your teeth.brushing

Here is one way to remove plaque – discuss with your dental team which is the best for you:

  1. Place the head of your toothbrush against your teeth, then tilt the bristle tips to a 45-degree angle against your gumline. Move the brush in small circular movements, several times, on all the surfaces of every tooth.

  2. Brush the outer surface of each tooth, upper and lower, keeping the bristles angled against your gumline.

  3. Do this again, but on the inside surfaces of all your teeth. To clean the inside surfaces of your front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several small, circular strokes with the front part of the brush.

  4. Brush the biting surfaces of your teeth.

  5. Brush your tongue to help freshen your breath and clean your mouth by removing bacteria.

Be sure to brush thoroughly with a fluoride toothpaste last thing at night and at least one other time during the day. If you regularly keep getting discomfort or bleeding after brushing you should see your dentist.

Q: What sort of toothpaste should I use?

A: As well as regular family toothpastes, there are many specialised toothpastes. These include tartar control for people who get tartar build-up, and a choice of toothpastes for people with sensitive teeth. 'Total care' toothpastes include ingredients to help fight gum disease, freshen breath and reduce plaque build-up. 'Whitening' toothpastes are good at removing staining to help restore the natural colour of your teeth, but are not strong enough to change the natural shade of the teeth.
Some children's toothpastes only have about half the fluoride that adult toothpastes have. They only give limited protection for the teeth. If your children are under 7 you should supervise them when they brush their teeth. Encourage them not to swallow the toothpaste and to just spit, not rinse, after brushing.
To have a clean and healthy mouth you need to use the correct dental-care products. Ask your dental team to tell you what choices there are and to give their recommendations

Q: How should I clean between my teeth?

A: You can clean between your teeth with an 'interdental' brush or dental floss. Dental tape is thicker than floss and many people find it easier to use. Cleaning in between your teeth removes plaque and bits of food from between your teeth and under your gumline – areas a toothbrush can't reach. You should clean between your teeth at least once a day. Your dental team can show you proper interdental cleaning techniques.
The following suggestions may help with flossing:floss
  1. Break off about 45 centimetres (18 inches) of floss, and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers. Wind the remaining floss around the same finger of the other hand. As you use the floss, you will take up the used section with this finger.

  2. Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, with about an inch of floss between them, leaving no slack. Use a gentle 'rocking' motion to guide the floss between your teeth. Do not jerk the floss or snap the floss into the gums.

  3. When the floss reaches your gumline, curve it into a C-shape against one tooth until you feel resistance.

  4. Hold the floss against the tooth. Gently scrape the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum. Repeat on the other side of the gap, along the side of the next tooth.

  5. Don't forget the back of your last tooth.

When flossing, keep to a regular pattern. Start at the top and work from left to right, then move to the bottom and again work from the left to right. This way you're less likely to miss any teeth. At first it also helps to look in the mirror.
It is also very important to clean around the edges of any crowns, bridges or implants. This can be difficult to do effectively using traditional floss and there are now specialised flosses to do the job thoroughly. Ask your dental team which product to use and how to use it properly.

Final words

Good dental health begins with you. By following these simple tips you can keep your mouth clean and healthy:
  1. Brush your teeth for two minutes, last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, using fluoride toothpaste.

  2. Use a toothbrush with a small- to medium-sized head.

  3. 3. Use a toothbrush with soft to medium, multi-tufted, round-ended nylon bristles.

  4. 4. Consider using a power toothbrush.

  5. Use small, circular movements to clean your teeth.

  6. Change your toothbrush regularly, and at least every 3 months.

  7. Clean between your teeth every day using interdental brushes or dental floss.

  8. Have sugary drinks and foods less often.

  9. Visit your dental team regularly, as often as they recommend.