Dr. Sam Cress - Dentist in Houston, TX

Facts on Oral Hygiene

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 lives. The best way to prevent cavities and periodontal disease is by good tooth brushing and flossing techniques, performed daily.

Periodontal disease and decay are both caused by bacterial plaque. Plaque is a colorless film which sticks to your teeth at the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth throughout the day. By thorough daily brushing and flossing, you can remove plaque to help prevent periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease can be accelerated by a number of different factors. However, it is mainly caused by the bacteria found in dental plaque, a sticky colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth throughout the day. If not carefully removed by daily brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar).  Tartar is the precursor to the periodontal disease process and has to be professionally removed by your Preventative Therapists at your routine re-care dental appointments.  Tartar causes deterioration of the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place.  If left untreated, it can lead to bone and  tooth loss.

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 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 finished cleaning the outside surfaces of all your teeth, follow the same directions while cleaning the inside surfaces of  your back teeth. To clean the inside surfaces of the upper and lower front teeth, hold the brush vertically. Make several gentle back-and-forth 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.

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 floss 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 into 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.

Sometimes after dental treatment, teeth are sensitive to hot and cold. This should not last long, but only if the mouth is kept clean. If the mouth is not kept clean, the sensitivity will remain and could become more severe. If your teeth are especially sensitive, consult with your doctor. The doctor may recommend a medicated toothpaste or mouth rinse made especially for sensitive teeth.

There are so many products on the market it can 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 such as Sonicare (www.sonicare.com) are safe and effective for the majority of patients. Oral irrigators such as Waterpik by Teledyne (www.waterpick.com/dentalcare/) will rinse your mouth thoroughly but will not remove plaque. You need to brush and floss in conjunction with the irrigator. Through our experience, we see excellent results with the use of the Sonicare toothbrush and Waterpik products.  

Some manual 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 discuss proper use with your doctor or hygienist.

Fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses, if used in conjunction with brushing and flossing, can reduce tooth decay as much as 40%. Remember, these rinses are not recommended for children under six years of age. Toothpaste can help reduce biofilm at the gum line (plaque), but gum disease starts below the gum line.  

Anti-plaque mouth rinses, approved by the American Dental Association (www.ada.org), may be recommended by your oral therapist or preventative therapist to help aid in the treatment of early gum disease in conjunction with brushing and flossing.

Good nutrition plays a large role in your dental health. Brushing and flossing help to 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 to convert the starch in your mouth to acids which attack your teeth for up to 20 minutes or more. Also, foods that stick to your teeth or are slow to dissolve which gives the acids more time to work at destroying your tooth enamel.

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.