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Dental Care Basics

An essential element in maintaining your overall health is keeping your mouth healthy. Since your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory systems, it’s imperative that you take good care of it so that you can eat, drink and speak properly. Healthy teeth and gums can help to reduce your risk of developing certain kinds of cancers, cardiovascular disease and pneumonia.

Knowing the basics of dental care will assist you in being able to keep your mouth healthy and functional for years to come.

Plaque Prevention

Every time you eat food or drink a beverage a clear, sticky substance forms on the surface of your teeth. This substance is known as plaque. Plaque contains bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay. These bacteria release acids that damage the enamel of your teeth, making it more likely that they will develop cavities.

In order to prevent plaque from building up and hardening into calculus or tartar deposits, you need to brush and floss every day. Failing to do so can lead to diseases like gingivitis.

How to Prevent Gingivitis

An estimated 75% of people in America will be impacted by gingivitis at some point in their lives. This common condition is the primary cause of bleeding gums. It is also the first stage of periodontal (gum) disease. Luckily, if it is caught early on it is completely reversible.

Regular checkups with your dentist are important when it comes to preventing gingivitis. This is because the condition often doesn’t cause you to feel pain until it has advanced. If it is left untreated, gingivitis will advance into a severe version of gum disease that is known as periodontitis. This disease can cause your teeth to fall out.

Here are some signs that you may have gingivitis:

  • Your gums are sore to the touch
  • Your gums are inflamed and dark red or purple in color
  • Your gums bleed when you brush or floss
  • Your breath smells foul
  • Your teeth are sensitive to heat and cold
  • Your teeth are loose
  • Your bite has changed

Keeping gingivitis from developing and advancing into more serious problems is as simple as getting rid of as much plaque from your teeth and gums as you possibly can. This can be done via at-home oral hygiene routines, as well as during regularly scheduled dental cleanings. These cleanings will allow your dental hygienist to remove built-up plaque in difficult to reach places via the use of special cleaning tools.

How to Prevent Cavities

In addition to causing gingivitis, the bacteria in plaque is also responsible for causing tooth decay. The acids released by the bacteria wear down the enamel and dentin of a tooth, causing tiny holes to develop in the tooth. Without proper treatment, the cavity will grow larger and deeper. This can result in painful toothaches, severe infections and the loss of your tooth or teeth.

Cavities are an incredibly common health issue around the world. It’s a common childhood problem, but infants and older adults can develop cavities too. Fortunately, cavities are completely preventable via brushing, flossing and regular dental checkups and cleanings. Some signs that you may have a cavity include:

  • You feel pain when you chew or bite down
  • You experience sensitivity to foods or drinks that are sweet, hot or cold
  • You have a sudden toothache
  • You see holes or pits in your teeth

Your dentist will be able to spot cavities in their earliest stages, often before you even know you have them. This is why you should see your dentist on a regular basis for checkups. If you leave a cavity untreated, it will eventually destroy your tooth. It can also lead to severe infections and abscesses. These problems can cause serious complications.

Maintaining Your Dental Health at Home

You should be taking care of your teeth and gums in between your regularly scheduled checkups and cleanings. You can do this by establishing an oral hygiene routine that incorporates the following actions.

Brushing: This should be done twice a day with either a soft-bristle toothbrush or an electric toothbrush. The best kind of toothpaste to use is one that includes fluoride. Other tips include:

  • Teeth should be brushed for a minimum of two minutes
  • Your tongue should also be brushed
  • The toothbrush should be replaced every three months or whenever the bristles of the brush are visibly worn
  • You should change your toothbrush after you’ve been ill or had any kind of mouth infection

Flossing: Properly flossing your teeth not only removes the food particles and plaque that your toothbrush couldn’t reach, but it also prevents bad breath, tartar buildup and tooth decay. You should floss every day.

Mouthwash: Utilizing an antibacterial mouthwash for at least 30 seconds after brushing and flossing will remove food particles and bacteria left behind after brushing and flossing. The reduction of bacteria will assist in preventing gingivitis, halitosis and tooth decay. You should use a mouth rinse that carries the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval.

Healthy eating and drinking: Your diet has an important part to play in your oral health. If you eat a diet full of foods and beverages containing high levels of starches, sugars and carbohydrates, the production of plaque will increase. Eating a healthy diet of lean proteins, dairy products, fruits, nuts and vegetables will help keep your teeth and gums healthy. The ADA also recommends that you drink tap water that has fluoride added to it.

Developing a Relationship with a Dentist

When you see the same dentist over and over again you will develop a good working relationship with one another. Your dentist will know your medical and dental health history. Regular visits also make it more likely that any issues you have will be caught early on. This will allow you to save money, time and stress.

Most people should see their dentist twice a year for checkups and professional dental cleanings. Your checkups will consist of a thorough exam of your teeth, gums and mouth. This is where your dentist will look for any signs of cavities and gum disease. He or she may also look out for signs of teeth grinding, indications of TMJ and changes in your bite. Depending on your symptoms and age, the dentist may take X-rays to detect issues like tooth fractures, decay in between the teeth, bone loss, abscesses, cysts and tumors.

Your regular checkups will also consist of an oral cancer screening. Catching this potentially fatal disease early on is the key to beating it. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research says that there are around 49,700 new oral cancer cases diagnosed every year in the United States. Men are typically impacted by this disease more often than women. Smokers and people who frequently drink alcohol are also at a higher risk.

Go the Distance with Good Dental Care

As you can see, keeping up with your oral health by establishing an at-home hygiene routine and seeing your dentist on a regular basis are imperative when it comes to having a healthy smile.

If you need to establish a good relationship with a dentist near you, contact our office by phone or online to schedule your first appointment with us.

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