Brushing your teeth daily and seeing your dental hygienist every six months are two key actions to help you have healthy teeth.
Medical Advisor Ana Sofía Duque – Dentist
In an effort to raise awareness about the importance of visiting your oral health professional periodically as part of proper dental care, the dentist Ana Sofía Duque shares the following story with us, “Not too long ago, I treated a 25-year-old patient who didn’t go to the dentist because, according to him, his teeth never hurt. At the appointment, I found that he had very poor oral hygiene. Even though he brushed on a daily basis, three of his molars were compromised and he was at risk of gum disease.”
As Dr. Duque explains, this condition is a silent disease that begins with inflamed gums (gingivitis). It can even affect the bone that holds the tooth, causing the tooth to loosen, move, and in a worst-case scenario, the patient will lose their tooth, “This is a slow and silent process in which, due to a lack of thorough hygiene, small gaps form between the tooth and the gum where bacteria and residue build up. These gaps can increase in size until the tooth loosens and eventually falls out.”
The only way to eliminate the bacteria that build up in these cases, is with regular cleanings done by an oral healthcare professional. As Dr. Duque explains, “This procedure, which in some cases requires local anesthesia, consists of cleaning the surface of the teeth – the crown and the root – with a curette. There is no need to make an incision. In some cases, medication may need to be applied.” This is a minimally-invasive treatment that allows the bone to regenerate and reattach to the root.
When gum disease is diagnosed, it becomes more complex. While extracting the tooth is not always necessary, a more advanced treatment may be required that allows the gums to recover. This is why getting a dental cleaning every six months is so important. If the person is diabetic or has an existing oral condition, the recommended frequency is every three months. Children who are older than six months can also get dental cleanings, as it is important to take care of the gums from an early age.
Brushing your teeth is not as simple a process as you think. For children up through age 12, parents are recommended to stay with their child because they tend to play with or bite their toothbrush, and therefore do not successfully remove bacteria from their mouth. Spending 5 minutes of thorough brushing after each meal is enough for proper preventive oral care.
- Floss: Flossing each time you brush is important because it removes impurities from places your toothbrush cannot reach. Not flossing causes bad breath and gingivitis as the bacteria and food that remain between the teeth decompose over time. For those whose teeth are very close together, the recommendation is to use dental tape, which is thinner. If your gums bleed when you floss, this is because there is inflammation, but this is not a reason to not floss, as this is just the right type of cleaning to help provide relief.
- Brush: Choosing the right brush depends on the patient, their age, and how hard they brush. In general, the recommendation for people who have healthy teeth is to have a medium brush with soft bristles. The technique recommended by Dr. Duque is to make brushing movements where the tooth begins and work downwards applying moderate force, “Brushing hard is abrasive on the tooth, and brushing too light is a waste of time.” Remember that the tongue is part of your mouth and should also be brushed. The suggested period of time for changing your toothbrush is every three months.
- Toothpaste: Choose a toothpaste that has fluoride and tastes good to you. Avoid using too much, however, as high amounts of fluoride can cause white stains on the teeth and make your tooth enamel porous and more susceptible to cavities. Remember that any toothpaste that has chemicals for whitening your teeth, causes sensibility. “In order to have white teeth, all you need is a toothpaste with fluoride, other toothpastes cause sensibility and popular home remedies such as mouthwashes with alum are extremely abrasive.”
- Mouthwash: One good mouthwash alternative is water with baking soda. If you are going to purchase a mouthwash, choose one without alcohol. This process helps eliminate some germs and keeps you having fresh breath.
- Cavities: The demineralization of your tooth enamel is a problem in children and adults. This problem increases when you eat sweets, smoke cigarettes or have poor oral hygiene. If you believe you have a cavity, see your dentist to get it removed.