Regular dental checkups are essential for maintaining excellent oral hygiene and diagnosing potential problems, but they are not a “fix-all” solution. Thorough oral home care routines should be practiced on a daily basis to avoid future dental problems.
Periodontal disease (also called gum disease and periodontitis) is the leading cause of tooth loss in the developed world and is, in most cases, completely preventable. Professional cleanings twice a year combined with daily self cleanings can remove a high percentage of disease-causing bacteria and plaque. In addition, teeth that are well cared for make for a sparkling, white smile.
There are numerous types of oral hygiene aids on the supermarket shelves, and it can be difficult to determine which will provide the most benefits for your teeth.
Here are some of the most common oral hygiene aids for home care:
Dental floss is the most common interdental and subgingival (below the gum) cleaner and comes in various types and flavors. The floss itself is made from either thin nylon filaments or polyethylene ribbons and can help remove food particles and plaque from between the teeth. Vigorous flossing with a floss holder can cause soft tissue damage and bleeding, so great care should be taken. Floss should normally be used twice daily after brushing.
Many hygienists and periodontists recommend interdental brushes in addition to dental floss. These tiny brushes are gentle on the gums and highly effective in cleaning the contours of teeth between the gums. Interdental brushes come in various shapes and sizes.
There are two basic types of mouth rinse available: cosmetic rinses, which are sold over the counter and temporarily suppress bad breath, and therapeutic rinses, which may or may not require a prescription. Most dentists are skeptical about the benefits of cosmetic rinses. Several studies have shown that their effectiveness against plaque is minimal. Therapeutic rinses, however, are regulated by the FDA and contain active ingredients that can help reduce bad breath, plaque, and cavities. Mouth rinses should generally be used after brushing.
Oral irrigators, like Water Jets and Waterpiks, clean debris from below the gum line. Water is continuously sprayed from tiny jets into the gum pockets, which can help remove harmful bacteria and food particles. Overall, oral irrigators have proven effective in lowering the risk of gum disease but should not be used instead of brushing and flossing. Professional cleanings are recommended at least twice annually to remove deeper debris.
Rubber Tip Stimulators
A rubber tip stimulator is an excellent tool for removing plaque from around the gum line and stimulating blood flow to the gums. The rubber tip stimulator should be traced gently along the outer and inner gumline at least once each day. Any plaque on the tip can be rinsed off with tap water. It is important to replace the tip as soon as it begins to appear worn and to store the stimulator in a cool, dry place.
Tongue cleaners are special devices that have been designed to remove the buildup of bacteria, fungi, and food debris from the tongue surface. The fungi and bacteria that colonize on the tongue have been related to halitosis (bad breath) and a great many systemic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, and stroke. Tongue cleaners can be made from metal, wood, or plastic and are shaped in accordance with the contours of the tongue. Tongue cleaning should be done prior to brushing to prevent the ingestion of fungi and bacteria.
There are many toothbrush types available. Electric toothbrushes are generally recommended by dentists because electric brushes are much more effective than manual brushes. The vibrating or rotary motion helps to easily dislodge plaque and remove food particles from around the gums and teeth. The same results can be obtained using a manual brush, but much more effort is needed to do so.
Manual toothbrushes should be replaced every three months, because worn bristles become ineffective over time. Soft bristle toothbrushes are far less damaging to gum tissue than the medium and hard bristle varieties. In addition, an appropriate sized ADA approved toothbrush should be chosen to allow for the proper cleaning of all teeth. Teeth should ideally be brushed after each meal or, minimally, twice a day.
If you have any questions about oral hygiene aids, please contact our practice.