How To Care For Teeth
We are told that we have to brush AND floss, but then advertisements say that we should also use toothpaste and mouthwash. Is it all just a clever marketing ploy? Do we really have to do all those things?
The simplest answer to caring for teeth is: “it depends”.
In general, caring for your teeth is surprisingly easy. All you have to do is avoid letting food sit around in your mouth for hours at a time. Just like your dinner plate, our teeth will retain some food residue after meals. When left in the mouth for extended amounts of time, these food remnants supply nutrition to the cavity-causing microbes in the mouth. Unlike a dinner plate, cleaning food remnants in the mouth is more difficult because of all the spaces between the teeth and deep pits and fissures on the tops of the molars. Make sure to clean your teeth before going to bed because leaving food residue on your teeth overnight is a big no-no!
At the very basic level, brushing and flossing before bed is extremely important.
Because necessity is the mother of all invention, humankind has created a number of different dental products that serve different purposes. Once you understand the purpose of each dental implement, you will be able to build an effective oral hygiene regimen suitable to your needs. At the very basic level, brushing and flossing before bed is extremely important.
This is the most basic tool in dental care. The toothbrush is able to mechanically scrub off sticky food particles and plaque build up on the teeth and the tongue. It is not necessary to use toothpaste, but toothpastes can often make the brushing experience nicer because it imparts a fresh, clean feeling. Some toothpastes will also contain ingredients like fluoride which help to remineralize the teeth and/or triclosan which is an anti-plaque agent. The toothbrush is NOT able to clean tight spaces between the teeth, so you may also need to use floss.
When there are tight spaces between the teeth or places where food is stuck, floss seems to be the only effective way to clear things up. There is no difference between string floss and floss on a stick (sometimes called “floss picks” or “Plackers®”). If you have really tight teeth that keep tearing up floss, try a waxed floss or a flat ribbon floss.
With a toothbrush and floss you can get pretty clean teeth, and mouthwash can only help. Mouthwash was actually intended to help clean the surfaces of the mouth that we are unable to brush or floss. These areas include the roof of the mouth, under the tongue, and inside the cheeks. Although the bacteria that causes cavities likes to stick to teeth, they can adhere to the gums and the soft linings in the mouth. Using a mouthwash that contains essential oils, hydrogen peroxide, cetylpyradimium chloride, or chlorhexadine are all effective at eliminating harmful bacteria in the mouth.
What if you are brushing and flossing but still get cavities?
Certain individuals are more predisposed to cavities than others. These so-called predispositions are also known as risk factors, and there are easy solutions to reduce or eliminate these risk factors in many cases. It is much too complicated to provide a comprehensive list of possible reasons, so if you feel like you are doing everything you can but are continuing to have problems it is recommended to seek the opinion of one or more dentists.
The frequency with which an individual is recommended to see the dentist varies. After any necessary treatment has been done and we have determined that you are doing a great job taking care of your own dental health, we recommend coming in for a check-up every year. In addition, we recommending coming in for a clean every 6 months.
If you are on the right track, x-rays can be taken less frequently, sometimes just every few years. Your dentist will explain the reason for any x-ray taken, and will also discuss the findings, if any, with you. We welcome questions, and it also shows us that you are being proactive in taking care of your oral health. Prevention and routine is always our preferred care, and its also easier on your wallet! We want you to keep the teeth that you have, that’s why regular dental care is important. If you haven’t been to the dentist for a while, we recommend coming in for an exam so that we can assess your specific needs.