When our parents were young, it was far more common for people to have dental issues and lose their teeth as they age. Dentures were used far more frequently than they are today. In fact, today our goal as dentists is that our patients retain their natural teeth throughout their life and that those teeth remain healthy. Outside of genetic dental diseases and incidental events such as vehicle accidents, we believe that there is no reason why you shouldn’t retain healthy teeth for your lifetime as long as you are following proper oral hygiene and lifestyle habits.
Maintaining Oral Hygiene
We recommend following a pattern of brushing the teeth, gums and tongue a minimum of twice daily, at the beginning of the day and before bed. Flossing must be done a minimum of once a day. Better yet, brushing and flossing after each meal will provide ultimate protection against some of the most common dental concerns.
There is no doubt that issues related to gum disease and decay are among the most frequently diagnosed conditions that a dentist deals with in their daily practice. But by practicing good cleaning technique and frequency, gum disease and decay can be effectively prevented.
The environments inside of our mouths are built to help us effectively break down food matter in preparation for digestion. The bacteria that live inside of our mouths interact with the foods that we introduce them to. We all know that sugar, for example, has negative implications for the health of our teeth. But did you know that starchy carbohydrates can account for just as much trouble where your teeth are concerned? The bacteria inside of our mouth feeds on the sugars in our food, and this results in increased levels of acidity in the mouth. This acidity eats away at the protective coating on our teeth, called enamel, and causes an increase in the production of plaque in our oral cavities.
The term ‘plaque’ refers to the clear gummy film that we feel on our teeth when we haven’t brushed them recently. Plaque grows in the mouth and collects around the collars of our teeth and onto the gums. Brushing your teeth sweeps away this plaque, which is made primarily of bacteria, before the plaque has an opportunity to compromise your dental health.
If, however, plaque is left on the teeth and gums, it causes them to become irritated. Like most soft tissue, gums show visible signs of being in distress with reddening, swelling and even bleeding when they are brushed or flossed. If you are finding that your gums bleed easily when brushed or flossed, this is an indication that the bacteria in your mouth is not being adequately kept under control.
You are in luck! Early presentations of gum disease (called gingivitis) are reversible with excellent oral hygiene. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist for advice on how to properly floss and brush your teeth if your current method is still resulting in symptoms of gingivitis.
Tooth Decay and Bad Breath
It isn’t just eating onions and garlic that can produce foul breath, most causes of bad breath can be the result of underlying oral hygiene issues. Like plaque, food debris that is left in the mouth can cause more severe side effects such as cavity formation and can contribute to bad breath. Food caught around and between the teeth can produce foul odors as it decomposes, and together with plaque, these bacteria can cause foul and offensive breath.
If you need more convincing to improve your oral hygiene, an understanding of the risks of periodontitis should do the trick. Periodontitis is an advanced form of gingivitis which occurs when the bacteria around the teeth begins to progress into the space between the teeth and the gums. Swelling of the gums can cause them to pull away from the teeth, resulting in the bacterial ‘seal’ around the teeth to be broken. Once plaque calcifies as tartar, bacteria can start to collect in the pockets between the gum and the tooth, resulting in further inflammation and irritation. Plaque bacteria continues to travel along the teeth into the spongey bone that surrounds the tooth and the ligament.
Once the ligament and bone of the tooth begins to be negatively impacted, bone destruction sets in and can result in the destabilization and loss of the tooth itself. Furthermore, intervention is necessary to ensure that large scale systemic infection does not occur.
While gum disease is a health concern, many of its symptoms can go unnoticed by the sufferer until the problem has progressed significantly. Rather than wait for a concern to present itself, why not decide to start prioritizing your oral health today? Your teeth, your body and your interpersonal relationships will no doubt benefit!