Why is oral hygiene so important? The best way to prevent cavities and periodontal disease is by good tooth brushing and flossing techniques, performed daily. Periodontal disease and decay are both caused by bacterial plaque. Plaque is a colorless film, which sticks to your teeth at the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth. By thorough daily brushing and flossing you can remove these germs and help prevent periodontal disease. It is also incredibly important to maintain your 6-month cleaning appointments with your general dentist. It also may be advised to increase cleaning appointments with your dentist while you have braces on your teeth.
Choosing Oral Hygiene Products
There are so many products on the market it can become confusing and choosing between all the products can be difficult. Here are some suggestions for choosing dental care products that will work for most patients. Seek products with the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval. 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. Anti-plaque rinses, approved by the American Dental Association, contain agents that may help bring early gum disease under control. Use these in conjunction with brushing and flossing.
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. Focus on two teeth at a time, and then move on spending at least two minutes a session. 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 by using 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. After you are done, rinse vigorously to remove any plaque you might have loosened while brushing. If you have any pain while brushing or have any questions about how to brush properly, please be sure to ask our Doctors or Hygienist.
Dental disease and cavities usually appears between the teeth where your toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing is a very effective way to remove plaque from those surfaces. However, it is important to floss with the proper technique. The following instructions will help you, but remember it takes time and practice.
If you are in Invisalign treatment, with clear trays removed, start with a piece of floss (“Glide” or waxed is easier) about 18″ long. Lightly wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand and wrap the rest of the floss around the middle finger of the other hand. To clean the upper teeth, hold the floss tightly between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Gently insert the floss between the teeth. Do not force the floss or try to snap it into place. Bring the floss to the gum line 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 backside 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 week 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. When wearing full braces, flossing can be a little more difficult. Using a floss threader or a bridge threader, thread floss under the arch wire and follow the above instructions. We also recommend using an interdental cleaner by GUM called “soft picks”. This latex free flexible and tapered bristles fit between small spaces to dislodge food and plaque. They are clinically proven to remove plaque and helps to reduce gingivitis.
The greatest breakthrough in preventive dentistry in the last fifty years has been the use of fluoride. Almost all water naturally contains some fluoride. About three-fourths of American cities add additional fluoride to the water supply for the prevention of tooth decay.
There are many benefits in the use of fluoride, for people of all ages. When children are young and their teeth are forming, fluoride joins with the enamel surface and makes it harder and more decay-resistant. The benefits for adults are just as great. Fluoride can help repair an early cavity, even before it becomes visible in the mouth, by rebuilding the enamel layer of the teeth.
Fluoride is also helpful in older adults to help solve the problem of root caries or root sensitivity. Fluoride rinses or gels are sometimes prescribed to help eliminate germs that cause gum disease. It is an important part of every tooth decay prevention program. When combined with the good hygiene habits of brushing and flossing, the number of cavities in children and adults can be dramatically reduced.
Nutrition & Health
Good nutrition plays a large role in your dental health. Brushing and flossing help to keep your teeth and gums healthy and strong; however, a balanced diet will help to boost your body’s immune system, leaving you less vulnerable to oral disease. How often and what you eat have been found to affect your dental health. Starchy foods such as crackers, breads, cookies and candies cause the bacteria in your mouth to feed on it, the bacteria then produce acids, which attack your teeth for up to 20 minutes or more. Also, foods that stick to your teeth or are slow to dissolve give the acids more time to work on destroying your tooth enamel.
Sticky/slow to dissolve foods:
- Granola Bars
- Chewy Fruit Snacks
- Dried Fruits
- Potato Chips
- Hard Candies
You may also want to avoid drinking soda, as it is high in acids and sugar. Saliva production increases at mealtime, rinsing away food particles and neutralizing harmful acids. Foods such as nuts, cheese, onions, and some teas have been shown to slow growth of decay-causing bacteria in the mouth.
Foods to Avoid
While you are wearing braces, please avoid eating hard foods, sticky foods and foods high in sugar. Hard foods can break or damage the wires and brackets, and sticky foods can get caught between the wires and brackets. Minimize the amount of sugary foods you eat; the sugar can cause tooth decay and other related problems.
Examples of Sticky Foods to Avoid:
- Gum (sugar-free or regular)
- Sugar Daddies
- Tootsie Rolls
Examples of Hard Foods to Avoid:
- Hard taco shells
- French bread crust/rolls
- Corn on the cob
- Apples and carrots (unless cut into small pieces)
- Jolly Ranchers
- Pizza crust
- Uncooked carrots (unless cut)
Minimize Sugary Foods like:
- Ice Cream
Only Once a Day:
- Sweetened tea
- Drinks with sugar
We encourage patients to quit bad habits, such as fingernail biting, pencil and pen chewing and chewing on foreign objects. All of these activities can break or damage your braces.
It’s important to regularly check your braces for bent or loose wires and brackets. If you have a loose/broken wire or bracket, please call our office immediately to arrange a repair appointment.