"An informed patient is the best patient... calm, comfortable, and confident."
A well-educated patient is a willing partner in his or her dental care. Good dental health begins with good oral hygiene, which relies on a partnership between dentist, dental hygienist and patient. Regular professional dental care paired with a recommended home care routine will enable you to maintain healthy teeth and gums. To keep your teeth healthy and strong, it is imperative for you to understand exactly what you're accomplishing in your home hygiene protocol.
Click on the topics below to learn more about oral hygiene, decay and disease.
Proper brushing and flossing techniques help minimize the risk of tooth decay and gum disease, the latter of which is the major cause of tooth loss. Be sure to follow any special home-care instructions provided by your dental professional. In general, the following steps will help to ensure proper technique and optimal results.
- Use an ADA approved fluoride toothpaste and soft-bristle toothbrush to remove plaque and food particles. Replace your toothbrush every three months.
- On outer and inner tooth surfaces, brush at a 45-degree angle against the gumline in short, half-tooth-wide strokes.
- On chewing surfaces, hold the brush flat and brush in a back-and-forth motion.
- On inside surfaces of front teeth, tilt brush vertically and use gentle up and down strokes with the toe of the brush.
- Brush the tongue in a back-to-front sweeping motion to freshen your mouth.
- Floss daily to remove plaque and food particles between teeth and below the gumline.
- Wrap an 18-inch strand of dental floss around your middle fingers, and hold a one-inch section tightly.
- Ease the floss between teeth, cleaning up and down several times while curving around teeth at the gum line. Unwind clean floss as you proceed around the arch.
- Floss around the abutment teeth of a bridge and under artificial teeth using a floss threader. Remember to floss behind the last tooth.
- You may experience sore or bleeding gums for the first several days of flossing. If bleeding continues after the first two weeks, call your dental professional. If you have trouble handling floss, ask your dentist about the use of a floss holder or other interdental cleaning aids.
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The Regular Dental Visit
At every regularly scheduled dental appointment-usually every six months-your dentist thoroughly examines your teeth, gums, mouth and throat. This visit includes the following:
Head & Neck Examination
- The Cancer Exam
- Facial Structure Exam
- Palpation of Chewing Muscles
- Palpation of Lymph Nodes
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)
Clinical Dental Examination
- Periodontal Exam: includes gingival (gums) and periodontal pockets
- Tooth Mobility
- Mucous Membranes
- Occlusion (Bite)
- Tooth Decay
- Broken Fillings
- Removable Appliances
- Contact Between Teeth
Dental Cleaning (Prophylaxis)
- Assessment of Mouth Cleanliness
- Oral Hygiene Instructions
After completing the dental examination, your dentist may outline a detailed treatment plan, if necessary, and indicate when you should return for a follow-up visit. Regular preventive maintenance, along with a thorough home-care regimen, is vital to maintaining good oral health.
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Recurrent Dental Appointments
If you've just had a perfect dental exam, why should you schedule another appointment so soon? The bottom line is that regular dental visits are absolutely essential to maintaining healthy teeth and gums. For maximum benefit, a good home care regimen must be supplemented with an oral examination and prophylaxis at least every six months. Depending on the status of your oral health, your dentist may recommend more frequent visits.
Who doesn't remember as a child sitting in the dental chair, mouth open wide, fingers crossed, and eyes closed, thinking to yourself, "No cavities, no cavities, no cavities!" in an effort to will away any sneaky little spots of decay? Although many patients believe that checking for tooth decay is the primary reason for dental exams, it is, in fact, only a small part of a thorough oral exam. During each examination, your dentist also probes your gums to assess inflammation, tooth mobility, and periodontal pockets; examines your mouth for indications of cancer, diabetes, and vitamin deficiencies; and notes any irregularities in your facial structure, bite, saliva and temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Your dentist or hygienist also will clean your teeth, answer any questions you may have, and encourage you to maintain good oral hygiene, providing instruction as needed.
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Made up of countless closely packed mineral rods, tooth enamel is very hard. When you eat, acid forms on the outside of the tooth and seeps into the enamel's rods. This demineralization process can create a weak spot in the tooth's surface. If left unchecked, the enamel can decay and a cavity can form.
Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by slowing the breakdown of enamel and speeding up the natural remineralization process. These microscopic views of a tooth's chewing surface illustrate how fluoride works:
- Healthy tooth enamel rods exist before the onslaught of acid.
- Enamel rods are demineralized-or broken down-by the acid.
- Enamel rods are remineralized-or rebuilt-by fluoride and the minerals in saliva.
Common sources of fluoride include fluoridated water, toothpastes, and mouth rinses. If your drinking water is not fluoridated, your dentist may recommend that you take fluoride supplements in the form of high-concentration fluoride gels, mouth rinses, drops or tablets.
Progression of Tooth Decay
- Tooth decay often begins on biting surfaces, between the teeth, and on exposed enamel rods.
- Left untreated, the cavity enlarges.
- Decay spreads beneath the enamel and can destroy the tooth structure.
- Decay enters the pulp and an abscess may occur.
- The use of fluoridated toothpaste can help prevent tooth decay.
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Patients often confuse plaque and tartar and how they are related to each other. Plaque is a bacterial by-product of acid and saliva; it manifests itself as a sticky film that is constantly forming on the surfaces of your teeth. Plaque buildup along the gumline, between teeth, and in hard-to-reach areas is a primary factor in gum disease. Because plaque is constantly forming on teeth, even after brushing, it is vital that you brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily.
Plaque that is not removed through regular brushing and flossing can harden into unsightly tartar (also called calculus). Tartar is a crusty deposit that can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist. To minimize tartar formation, be sure that you brush your teeth with tartar-prevention toothpaste at least twice a day, floss every day, and have your teeth professionally cleaned on a schedule recommended by your dentist.
Individuals vary greatly in their susceptibility to plaque and tartar. For many of us, these deposits build up faster as we age. Fighting plaque and tartar is a life-long component of oral care.
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If you occasionally experience a sudden flash of pain or a mild tingling when you bite into sweet or sour foods or drink hot or cold beverages, you may have sensitive teeth. The pain associated with sensitive teeth is not always constant; it can come and go. (Constant pain could be a sign of a more serious problem.) It is still important, however, to discuss your symptoms with your dentist so that he or she can determine the cause and prescribe the proper treatment.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
In healthy teeth, porous tissue called dentin is protected by your gums and the hard enamel shell of your teeth. When this protection is lost, microscopic holes in the dentin-called tubules-allow heat, cold and other irritants to be transmitted back to the tooth nerve, thereby triggering pain.
Dentin can become exposed by:
- Receding gums caused by improper brushing or gum disease
- Fractured or chipped teeth
- Clenching or grinding your teeth
Depending on the diagnosis, your dentist may recommend one or more of the following treatments to relieve the symptoms of sensitive teeth:
- A soft-bristle toothbrush
- A special toothpaste for sensitive teeth that can either block access to the nerve or make the nerve itself less sensitive
- A fluoride rinse or gel for sensitive teeth
- A sensitivity protection toothpaste usually takes several weeks to ease pain. Follow your dentist's instructions on the regular use of sensitivity protection products.
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Dental Care Q&A
Why do I need to have my teeth professionally cleaned?
Dental prophylaxis (professional cleaning) removes plaque, tartar (calculus), and stains from your teeth. This procedure can only be performed by a dentist or a dental hygienist. A hygienist is a licensed dental professional whose job is to perform prophylaxis and to provide education in the proper care of teeth and gums.
What is plaque?
Plaque is a sticky film that is constantly forming on all surfaces of your teeth. Composed of bacteria, bacterial by-products and salvia, plaque can build up along the gumline, between teeth and in other hard-to-reach areas to form tartar, which can only be removed through a professional cleaning. Plaque bacteria use sugar and other carbohydrates to grow and form acids attacking the enamel to cause cavities. These bacteria produce toxins that can irritate the gums, causing them to turn red, swell and bleed-the signs typically associated with gingivitis (gum disease). Although gingivitis IS reversible, if ignored or left untreated, it can progress to a more advanced stage of gum disease called periodontitis. We cannot say this enough: Brushing and flossing your teeth-or cleaning with another type of interdental cleaner-to remove plaque is essential in the fight for healthy teeth and gums.
What is tartar (calculus)?
Minerals in saliva combine with plaque at the tooth surface and harden into rough, unsightly deposits called tartar (calculus). Made up primarily of minerals, tartar creates a rough surface that makes thorough plaque removal exceptionally difficult. In fact, your toothbrush and floss cannot remove tartar once it has formed; tartar can only be removed through a professional dental cleaning (prophylaxis).
How can I get the most out of my home-care regimen?
The most effective way to maximize your efforts to improve and maintain good oral hygiene is to make plaque and tartar control part of your daily routine. Proper brushing helps remove plaque from the outer, inner and chewing surfaces of your teeth. In addition to proper brushing, thorough flossing helps remove plaque and debris from between the teeth, especially in the hard-to-reach areas at and slightly under the gumline. The proper techniques for brushing and flossing are outlined in the following section.
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Look great and feel great with dentistry
Are you one of the many people who had a negative experience as a child? Have you heard horror stories form your co-workers or family members? Whatever the case may be, we see patients every day who haven't been to the dentist in many years due to their fears and anxiety.
As many as 145 million North Americans avoid dental visits...but that's changing.
According to the American Dental Association, there's been a relative decline in dental fear compared to an increase in people's general anxiety levels. The dental office has become a kinder, gentler, place. We genuinely care. Our dental team is trained to help put people at ease with:
- A welcoming atmosphere and relaxed environment;
- Comfortable non-surgical procedures;
- And it doesn't matter how long it's been since your last dental visit... We commend you for making the effort to make a change! You can experience:
- A white, attractive smile;
- Non-surgical treatments including tooth-colored fillings, teeth whitening, and veneers;
- Healthy gums and fresh breath;
- Comfortable dental appliances;
- The smile you've been dreaming of!
We welcome you to schedule a FREE dental consultation. We'll be happy to share our practice philosophy and to explain how we can make dentistry less anxious and more manageable for you. An informed patient is the best patient... calm, comfortable, and confident.
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