A healthy mouth is key to improved quality of life. But it takes more than just tooth brushing to have good oral hygiene. Simple dental care routine and oral health check-ups are crucial for maintaining your smile and health of the oral tissues.
Many people do not understand the basics of promoting oral health. Moreover, they get caught up in the endless loop of tooth decay, gum disease, and poor oral hygiene.
One of the prime sources of all oral health problems is dental plaque. Plaque also called as biofilm, is a sticky and colorless film that consists of bacteria and fermented food debris. Usually, plaque develops on the surface of the tooth and around the gums. Inability to clean the plaque thoroughly leads to further damage to the tooth surface. Interdental aid typically, these three elements can suffice to keep your oral hygiene under control.
Professional dental cleaning or oral prophylaxis is a preventive measure to clean off dental plaque and tarter to avoid any possible gum disease. However, topping up your oral health care routine with mouthwash can add a beneficial value in providing you an extra dose of care and freshness.
You may be very attentive in taking care of your teeth and gums. However, it is essential to visit a dentist and keep a check on your oral health status. Now that you are all prepped up let’s read the article further to understand the basics of oral health care in detail.
What is the importance of oral health and hygiene?
A healthy mouth is considered as a state of being free from any diseases or disorder that may limit an individual’s capacity in performing primary oral functions. Such oral functions include biting, chewing, swallowing, speaking, smiling, and psychosocial well-being. (1)
Often poor oral health status is characterized by the presence of chronic mouth pain, oral infections, mouth sores, and tooth and gum disease. Additionally, bone disorder, facial depression, oral and throat cancers are the advanced stages of poor oral health.
Oral hygiene practices help to keep the mouth clean and free of disease. Regular oral hygiene practices involve tooth brushing and flossing to remove the plaque from the tooth surface. Additionally, interdental aid and use of mouthwash can prevent tooth decay and bad breath.
What causes poor oral hygiene?
Poor oral hygiene is primarily caused by excessive accumulation of plaque on the tooth surface and bacterial build up around the gums. Usually, this situation arises due to lack of proper oral health care. Some of the contributing factors for poor oral hygiene include –
- Poor diet habits which consist of the consumption of foods rich in sugar and carbohydrate
- Consumption of acidic or sugary beverages
- Oral habits like smoking and tobacco chewing
- Alcohol consumption
- Excessive stress
Failure to follow oral health care routine often increases the risk of developing dental diseases like –
- Tooth decay
- Cavity formation
- Gum disease and inflammation
- Periodontal disease
- Bad breath
What is the relation between oral health and overall well-being?
Maintaining good health of your teeth and gums is a worthy goal in itself.
Our mouth is like a double-edged sword. It acts like a mirror that reflects the ongoing status of the overall health. Additionally, it can also become a source for the development of health conditions.
Systemic conditions such as HIV/AIDS or diabetes often become apparent as mouth lesions. The Academy of General Dentistry states that more than 90% of all the systemic health conditions produce oral signs and symptoms. Such oral problems may help in early diagnosis and detection of the underlying health condition. (2)
On the contrary, oral diseases can also prove to be the source of poor health and well-being. Poor oral hygiene often creates an environment for additional bacteria to accumulate in the mouth. Lack of a healthy immune system can provide access to oral bacteria into the bloodstream. Such incidents can spread the infection to the vital organs of the body, for example, the heart and kidneys. Infective endocarditis is the most common heart disease caused by bacterial infection from the mouth.
Maintaining good oral hygiene is an investment in your overall health and well-being.
Plaque is the root cause of many oral health diseases that mainly affect the integrity of your teeth and gums. Therefore, it is essential to remove plaque from the tooth surface and gums. Routine oral prophylaxis is a great way to keep your mouth clean and save your teeth from the misery of painful tooth decay.
Oral prophylaxis is a professional teeth cleaning procedure which is performed by a dentist. It is mainly done as a preventative measure to remove the plaque and tartar from the tooth surface, under the gum line and the interdental area. (3)
Often during this procedure, the dentist can evaluate hidden decay spots or assess the health of the gums. This process is performed with an ultrasonic scaler that scrapes the tartar out. Following this, the tooth surface is polished with a polishing paste. The best way to keep your pearly whites healthy is to get routine oral prophylaxis at least twice in a year. Additionally, follow proper oral health care practices in a stepwise manner.
How can you take good care of your teeth and gums?
Let’s check out the oral health essentials you may need to keep your teeth and gums clean –
Most of us learn the proper technique of tooth brushing during childhood. However, many people adopt the wrong technique of tooth brushing and continue the same method throughout their lives. Additionally, there is also a dilemma between the efficacies of manual vs. electric toothbrush.
Let me clear your doubts once and for all. A manual toothbrush is equally effective as an electric toothbrush. The difference lies in the sloppy nature and physical limitations of an individual. While manual toothbrush may require little effort to brush every tooth, the power-driven toothbrush does the work for you. (4)
Irrespective of the brush you choose, it is the proper brushing technique that leads to effective plaque removal. You can take guidance from a dentist or a dental hygienist to show you the correct method. Parents may have to supervise their child’s brushing habits until the age of nine or ten. Now let’s have a look at the correct technique of tooth brushing –
- Choose a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles.
- The critical step is during tooth brushing is to align the bristles of the brush at an angle of 45 degrees facing towards the gums.
- Use short and gentle circular strokes to clean each surface of the tooth.
- Pay attention to the area around the gum line, tooth fillings, crowns, and hard to reach areas at the back of the teeth.
- For fresher breath, you can brush the surface of the tongue as well. However, a tongue scraper is more effective in removing the bacteria and food debris from the surface of the tongue.
- After you’ve completed tooth brushing, rinse your mouth with water.
- Proper tooth brushing takes around two minutes to complete.
Some of the key points to remember while brushing your teeth –
- Brush your teeth two times a day – teeth should be cleaned in the morning either before or after breakfast. Additionally, you must also brush your teeth in the night before sleeping. This helps to remove the bacterial acids and plaque that may have developed throughout the day.
- A mid-day cleaning can add beneficial value to your oral health
- Apply gentle pressure while brushing your teeth. Too much pressure can lead to enamel erosion and gum recession.
- Worn-out toothbrushes lose the efficiency to clean the teeth. Moreover, they may add to the misery of plaque and bacterial accumulation in the mouth. Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months or when the toothbrush bristles start to worn out.
- It is essential to keep your toothbrush clean after toothbrushing. Do not store your toothbrush in a closed container. Allow it to dry naturally, moreover, store your toothbrush at least two feet away from the toilet.
- Always select a toothbrush that has an ADA seal of acceptance. Such brands are known for their clinical efficiency, quality, and safety.
Toothpaste is one of the essential oral health care aid used during tooth brushing. It comes in the form of a paste or gel and consists of several components that allow effective removal of plaque and bacteria. Some of the ingredients contain abrasive agents, fluoride, humectants, thickening agent, detergent, flavoring agent, and medicinal extracts. (5)
Usually, dentists recommend fluoridated toothpaste to help in remineralization of the teeth. However, in children under the age of six years, fluoride toothpaste is not used as they tend to swallow the toothpaste. Some toothpaste is specifically designed to control tartar, tooth sensitivity, and tooth whitening. Selection of toothpaste depends on the dental needs of the patient.
Dental floss is a dental healthcare tool used to clean the area between the teeth and around the gums. Proper flossing technique allows efficient removal of plaque and debris that can’t be accessed with the help of a toothbrush. (6) An appropriate method of flossing may consist of the following steps –
- Ideally, take 18 inches of flossing thread and wind it around each middle finger leaving one or two inches of thread to work with.
- Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and index finger and slide it gently between the teeth.
- After insertion, gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth. At this time you can take the thread slightly downwards to cover the area around the gum line.
- Use gentle up and down motions between the teeth.
- Use clean sections for every new area you floss.
- Never snap the floss as it may cut the gums or cause an injury to the tissue.
- Floss at least once a day to maintain good oral hygiene.
There are several types of floss available in the market. Some of them are listed below –
- Floss threads – floss threads are the most commonly used type of floss. It consists of a nylon thread which is disposable after one use.
- Waxed or unwaxed floss – waxed floss is usually coated to provide a smooth polished surface of the tooth while flossing. Unwaxed floss is equally efficient in removing plaque. However, they do not leave a wax coat on the tooth surface.
- Monofilament or multifilament floss – single filament floss is usually used for tight contacts, while multifilament floss is thick and it is used to clean open contacts.
- Floss pick – floss pick is a modern form of tooth flossing. It consists of a thread holder with the floss attached on one end. It is usually preferred by people who find flossing very tedious.
Although floss is the best way of cleaning the interdental spaces between the teeth, other oral healthcare aids can help you to maintain good oral hygiene.
- Interdental brush – the interdental brush is specifically designed to clean large spaces between the teeth. It consists of a flexible brush with 360 degrees bristle coverage to clean each tooth surface in one go. It comes in a variety of sizes depending on the amount of spacing present between the teeth. Usually, a to and fro motion of the brush is used to clean the interdental area.
- Oral irrigators – these are power-driven devices that pump out high-speed water in a thin, steady, and pulsating stream. These devices are not as efficient as a string of floss in removing plaque from the tooth surface. However, they effectively flush out the food debris and bacteria from between the teeth. Oral irrigators are also used to spray antibacterial solutions into the gum pockets. (7)
- Interdental tip – interdental tip consists of a flexible rubber nib which is used to clean the areas between the teeth and around the gum line. For practical use, move the tip gently along the gum line to remove the plaque and bacteria.
Mouthwash is the advanced means of oral health care that contain antibacterial activity. These are primarily used to control microbial load in the oral cavity. Mouthwash specifically acts on the bacteria present on the surface of the tongue and other oral tissues. Typically, a mouthwash consists of antibacterial agents like chlorhexidine, fluoride, and essential oils.
Thirty seconds of mouth rinse with this solution can add a protective value to the health of your teeth and gums. Furthermore, the mouth wash reaches the areas around the gums and reduce gum inflammation. (8) Mouthwash adds an extra dose of freshness and protection to oral health. Children above six years of age are suitable to use mouthwash.
We all know how irresistible sugary snacks are when it comes to snacking during the day. However, sweet food and beverages are incredibly damaging to the teeth and gums. The oral bacteria thrive on such food substances and ferments it to produce bacterial acids in the mouth. Additionally, sugary food particles provide a sticky surface for plaque buildup, which aggravates the bacterial growth.
As the frequency of snacking increases, the bacterial acids attach the tooth surface and cause caries and cavity formations. (9) The best way to maintain proper oral hygiene while enjoying your food is to start smart snacking. Smart snacking involves eating healthy and nutritious food over sweet and sticky food items. Some of the key points to remember while smart snacking include –
- When and how often you eat snacks in a day?
- What type of snack do you usually prefer?
- Are you eating a nutritious snack every day?
Self- assessment often makes you realize your daily habits. Switch to a balanced diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, eggs, and dairy products.
Take away message
Good oral hygiene reflects the health of oral tissues and enhances the beauty of your smile. A healthy mouth consists of teeth and gums that are free from debris, plaque, and bacterial accumulation. Additionally, the gums are pink in color and do not bleed or hurt while brushing. Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential for the longevity and functionality of your teeth and gums. Moreover, good oral hygiene is the key to better overall health and well-being.
A routine oral health care routine often includes two significant steps – brushing of teeth with a toothbrush and a toothpaste followed by flossing between the teeth. If you do not enjoy flossing your teeth, you can switch to interdental brush, floss pick, oral irrigators or interdental tip. All these healthcare products help to efficiently remove the plaque and bacteria between the teeth and around the gum line.
Mouthwash is also a great source of oral health protection. Moreover, they help to provide fresh and minty breath. Additionally, it is essential to follow a balanced diet routine that will help to improve your oral health and overall well-being. Proper oral health care practice and knowledge about good oral hygiene and its benefits can take you a long way in maintaining your pearly whites throughout your life.