Did somebody say something about an ounce of prevention?
Prevention is at the heart of the battle against tooth decay. It is critical to know that dental caries is a preventable disease! At GALLERY OF LITTLE SMILES, Dr. Lam emphasizes the importance of establishing good eating, brushing and lifestyle habits to maintain good oral health and prevent dental decay and gum disease.
Obviously, prevention starts in the home. At your childs first recommended dental visit, Dr. Lam will discuss with you the specific dental needs of your child and any risk factors which may affect your childs oral health. Dr. Lam will guide you through what to expect in the months and years to come, what pitfalls lie ahead, and how to prevent dental caries in your child for as long as possible.
Diet is one critical aspect of caries prevention. Although young children often need to eat often to maintain energy, health, and alertness, the type of foods eaten differ significantly in their cavity-causing potential. Furthermore, the frequency of feeding is directly related to the likelihood of tooth decay. Therefore, Dr. Lam will help you walk the fine line between adequately nourishing your child, and putting your child at unnecessary risk for tooth decay.
Hygiene is another critical and very controllable aspect of caries prevention. Proper brushing is needed as soon as the first baby teeth erupt! Not only that, but proper brushing technique is critical to effective cleaning and caries prevention. Dr. Lam will discuss in depth each parents role in keeping children’s teeth clean. Depending on your child’s caries risk, brushing twice a day may not be enough. Moreover, brushing alone may not be enough!
Oral Hygiene Instructions
Why Is Oral Hygiene So Important?
Adults over 35 lose more teeth to gum disease (periodontal disease) than from cavities. Three out of four adults are affected at some time in their life. The best way to prevent cavities and periodontal disease is by good, daily tooth brushing and flossing techniques.
Periodontal disease and decay are both caused by bacterial plaque. Plaque is a colorless film that sticks to your teeth at the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth. By thorough daily brushing and flossing, you can remove these germs and help prevent periodontal disease.
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Decay is caused when bacteria in the mouth metabolize plaque and form an acid byproduct. This acid dissolves and breaks down tooth structure and over time, the tooth “cavitates”.
Periodontal Disease is caused by inflammation due to bacterial presence around periodontal tissue (gingiva, periodontal ligament, and bone). With increased inflammation, gums start to recede and bone follows. As the bone height decreases the tooth support decreases and tooth becomes loose needing extraction.
How To Brush
While brushing the outside surfaces of your teeth, position the brush at a 45-degree angle where your gums and teeth meet. Gently move the brush in a circular motion and back-and-forth several times using small, gentle strokes. Use light pressure while putting the bristles between the teeth, but not so much pressure that you feel any discomfort.
When you are done cleaning the outside surfaces of all your teeth, follow the same directions while cleaning the inside of the back teeth (that is, brush both the cheek and tongue side of teeth).
To clean the inside surfaces of the upper and lower front teeth, hold the brush vertically. Make several gentle up-and-down strokes over each tooth. Don’t forget to gently brush the surrounding gum tissue.
Next you will clean the biting surfaces of your teeth by using short, gentle strokes. Change the position of the brush as often as necessary to reach and clean all surfaces. Try to watch yourself in the mirror to make sure you clean each surface. After you are done, rinse vigorously to remove any plaque you might have loosened while brushing.
If you have any pain while brushing or have any questions about how to brush properly, please be sure to call the office.
If your gums bleed during brushing, it means that your gums have been inflamed for some time due to excess plaque accumulation. Continue brushing everyday and with time your gums will return to a healthy state and should no longer bleed.
How To Floss
Periodontal disease usually appears between the teeth where your toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing is a very effective way to remove plaque from those surfaces. However, it is important to develop the proper technique. The following instructions will help you, but remember it takes time and practice.
Start with a piece of floss (waxed is easier) about 18″ long. Lightly wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand. Wrap the rest of the floss around the middle finger of the other hand.
To clean the upper teeth, hold the floss tightly between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Gently insert the floss tightly between the teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Do not force the floss or try to snap it in to place. Bring the floss to the gum line then curve it into a C-shape against one tooth. Slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth until you feel light resistance. Move the floss up and down on the side of one tooth. Remember there are two tooth surfaces that need to be cleaned in each space. Continue to floss each side of all the upper teeth. Be careful not to cut the gum tissue between the teeth. As the floss becomes soiled, turn from one finger to the other to get a fresh section.
To clean between the bottom teeth, guide the floss using the forefinger of both hands. Do not forget the backside of the last tooth on both sides, upper and lower.
When you are done, rinse vigorously with water to remove plaque and food particles. Do not be alarmed if during the first week of flossing your gums bleed or are a little sore. If your gums hurt while flossing you could be doing it too hard or pinching the gum. As you floss daily and remove the plaque, your gums will heal and the bleeding should stop.
Caring For Sensitive Teeth
To prevent or decrease tooth sensitivity, a desensitizing toothpaste is recommended as the most conservative treatment. There are other agents that the doctor can apply to teeth (such as fluoride varnish) to decrease the sensitivity.
Choosing Oral Hygiene Products
There are so many products on the market that it may become confusing, and choosing between all the products can be difficult. Here are some suggestions for choosing dental care products that will work for most patients.
Automatic and high-tech electronic toothbrushes are safe and effective for the majority of patients. Oral irrigators (water spraying devices) will rinse your mouth thoroughly, but will not remove plaque. You need to brush and floss in conjunction with the irrigator.
Some toothbrushes have a rubber tip on the handle; this is used to massage the gums after brushing. There are also tiny brushes (interproximal toothbrushes) that clean between your teeth. If these are used improperly you could injure the gums, so be sure to discuss proper use of these brushes with your doctor.
If used in conjunction with brushing and flossing, fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses can reduce tooth decay as much as 40 percent. Remember, these rinses are not recommended for children under six years of age. Tartar control toothpastes will reduce tartar above the gum line, but gum disease starts below the gum line so these products have not been proven to reduce the early stage of gum disease.
Anti-plaque rinses, approved by the American Dental Association, contain agents that may help bring early gum disease under control. Use these in conjunction with brushing and flossing.
Daily brushing and flossing will keep dental calculus (tartar) to a minimum, but a professional cleaning will remove calculus in places your toothbrush and floss have missed. Your visit to our office is an important part of your program to prevent gum disease.
During professional cleaning we use ultrasonic vibration to remove accumulated tartar (calculus) from your teeth. Once that is accomplished we polish the teeth with prophy paste to ensure your teeth and roots are smooth thereby delaying future accumulation of plaque and tartar.
For patients with existing periodontal disease, it is advised to increase the frequency of professional cleanings to maintain periodontal health and to arrest the disease. Keep your teeth for your lifetime.
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Fluoride has been a major factor in the decline in the prevalence and severity of dental caries. Topical and systemic use of fluoride causes teeth to be less susceptible to dental caries. At our office, Dr. Glass and Dr. Lam will apply topical fluoride to your teeth or your child’s teeth after every cleaning. For children and adults who are at greater risk for developing certain types of decay or who have sensitive teeth, a special form of topical fluoride called a fluoride varnish may be applied by your dentist. Other sources of fluoride use at home, such as fluoride rinses may be recommended or prescribed.
Check-up: Digital X-rays, Diagnodent Laser, ViziLite Plus
The best way to prevent the development of dental disease (malocclusion, caries, periodontal disease, cancer) is to periodically monitor and check your dental health status. This is why Dr. Glass and Dr. Lam encourage everybody to come for check-ups every six months. At that time we provide a thorough exam, take all necessary digital x-rays, and use the Diagnodent laser to help detect dental caries. ViziLite Plus will be used on certain patients who have suspected oral lesions to determine whether a biopsy may be necessary to rule out cancer.
Highly effective in preventing decay on the biting surfaces of your chewing teeth, sealants are a simple procedure in which a tooth-colored protective coating is painted onto the chewing surface of the tooth. This effectively “seals” the deep grooves, acting as a barrier and protecting enamel from plaque and acids.
Easy to apply, sealants take only a few minutes to seal each tooth. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and can last up to several years before a re-application is needed.
Mouthguards and Retainers
Children and teenagers that are involved in sports should wear mouthguards to prevent fracture and trauma to their teeth. The use of mouthguards can also reduce the risk of concussion. Adults who grind their teeth should wear occlusal splints to prevent attrition of their tooth structure. Adults who have received a smile makeover and have porcelain crowns and veneers in their mouth should also wear a protective mouthguard to prevent porcelain fracture and to extend the longevity of such restorations. Patients who have undergone orthodontic treatment are advised to wear their Retainers to prevent teeth from once again shifting out of alignment.
Good nutrition plays a large role in your dental health. Brushing and flossing help keep your teeth and gums healthy and strong. However, a balanced diet will help to boost your body’s immune system, leaving you less vulnerable to oral disease.
How often and what you eat have been found to affect your dental health. Eating starchy foods such as crackers, bread, cookies, and candy causes the bacteria in your mouth to feed on it, they then produce acids, which attack your teeth for up to 20 minutes or more. Foods that stick to your teeth or are slow to dissolve give the acids more time to work on destroying tooth enamel. Keep in mind that since it is the acid that ultimately decays the teeth, acidic foods and drinks can also be detrimental to your dental health.
Sticky/slow to dissolve foods:
- Granola bars
- Chewy fruit snacks
- Dried fruit
- Hard candy
- Sodas or colas
- Tart fruit juices
- Sour candies
- Citrus fruits
Sticky and starchy foods create less acid when eaten as part of a meal. Saliva production increases at mealtime, rinsing away food particles, and neutralizing harmful acids.
Foods such as nuts, cheese, onions, and some teas have been shown to slow growth of decay-causing bacteria in the mouth.
Always remember that the frequency of eating and drinking increases the risk of developing decay.