Teeth for Life
Our goal is to help our patients achieve a lifetime of dental health.
It can be said that preventing dental disease relies on good genes, good habits and good nutrition. Not unlike your overall health. While we do not have control over genetic factors, we can more than make up for it by preventive measures in our daily lives.
Good oral hygiene and regular professional care will help prevent most dental problems, it’s that simple. You will save your teeth and also your time and money by following this simple advice.
The Culprit: Plaque
Central to this discussion is an understanding of dental plaque. Plaque is a sticky, film of bacteria that forms on our teeth. Even after thorough brushing and flossing, it reforms in a matter of a few hours.
The bacteria that lives in plaque thrives on the carbohydrates we eat. Sugars and starchy foods supply the fuel that bacteria turn into acids. These acids are the cause of tooth decay and along with other bacterial byproducts (toxins), begin the process of gum disease. Gum disease is the largest cause of tooth and bone loss in adults.
Cavities (dental caries) can develop anywhere on a tooth but the most susceptible areas are on the chewing surfaces in the deep pits and grooves that exist there and in between the teeth where they contact each other. Plaque naturally accumulates in these tight areas. Brushing can prevent decay on the exposed smooth surfaces of teeth. Flossing will help prevent cavities in between teeth.
Sealants are a protective coating that can be applied over the pits and grooves of the back teeth where the bristles of your tooth brush cannot penetrate. Sealants have been shown to be highly effective in preventing the decay that occurs on the chewing surfaces of these teeth.
Fluoride is also very important in the prevention of tooth decay. Fluoride works by helping enamel to harden (or mineralize). Professionally applied fluoride at checkups, fluoride toothpaste and rinses for home use, and fluoridated drinking water all work to combat the acid attack on enamel.
Fighting Gum Disease
Gum disease (also called periodontal disease) is an infection of the tissues that support your teeth. Because gum disease is usually painless, you may not know you have it. At each regular checkup the dentist or hygienist will measure the depth of the shallow v-shaped crevice (called a sulcus) between your teeth and gums to identify whether you have gum disease. We also check for other signs such as mobility or drifting of teeth, gums that bleed easily, and problems with the bite that can contribute to gum disease.
Periodontal diseases attack just below the gumline in the sulcus, where they cause the attachment of the tooth and supporting tissues to break down. As the tissues are damaged, the sulcus develops into a pocket; generally, the more severe the disease, the greater the depth of the pocket. Left untreated, the surrounding bone is destroyed and eventually tooth loss results.
Periodontal diseases are classified according to the severity of the disease. The two major stages are gingivitis and periodontitis.
In the early stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing as well as professional cleaning.
In the more advanced stages of gum disease, called periodontitis, the gums and bone that support the teeth become seriously damaged. Whereas healthy gums and bone anchor teeth firmly in place, infected gums can cause teeth to become loose, fall out, or have to be removed by a dentist.
Some factors increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:
- Tobacco smoking or chewing
- System-wide diseases such as diabetes
- Some types of medication such as steroids, certain anti-convulsant drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives
- Bridges that no longer fit properly
- Crooked teeth
- Fillings that have become defective
If you notice any of the following signs of gum disease, see the doctor immediately:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures
It is possible to have periodontal disease and have no warning signs.
That is one reason why regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are very important. Treatment methods depend on the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed.
Good oral hygiene at home is essential to keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring. You don’t have to lose teeth to periodontal disease. Brush regularly, clean between your teeth, eat a balanced diet and limit between meal snacks particularly starchy or sugary items. These simple measures as well as scheduling regular dental visits will assure you a lifetime of healthy smiles.
How to Brush Your Teeth
It is best to replace your toothbrush every eight to twelve weeks. When selecting dental products, always look for the American Dental Association “Seal of Acceptance”. It is your assurance of its safety and effectiveness.
Place your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to your gum.
Brush gently in a circular motion.
Brush the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces of each tooth.
Use the tip of your brush for the inner surface of your front teeth.
How to Floss Your Teeth
There are many aids available to make flossing easier for those who have dexterity problems. Your dentist or hygienist can show you the proper use of floss holders, interdental brushes, and other devices.
You should floss your teeth thoroughly at least once a day to remove plaque from the areas that your toothbrush cannot reach. Follow the steps below for proper flossing, and contact your doctor if you have any questions.
Wind about 18 inches of floss around your fingers as shown. Most of it should be wrapped around one finger, and as the floss is used, the other finger takes it up.
Use your thumbs and forefingers to guide about one inch of floss between your teeth.
Holding the floss tightly, gently saw the floss between your teeth. Then curve the floss into a C-shape against one tooth and gently slide it beneath your gums.
Slide the floss up and down, repeating for each tooth.
Brushing and Flossing: Printable instructions >