What is Dental Hygiene?
What does good oral hygiene mean to you? Flashing a pearly-white smile? Having fresh smelling breath? Running your tongue around your teeth and feeling squeaky clean? All of these betray a great deal about the state of your oral health — and they’re often among the first things people notice when they meet you. Unfortunately, getting your teeth, gums, and mouth squeaky clean and maintaining that healthy state throughout the day (and in the months between professional dental cleanings) can be challenging.
There is much more to oral hygiene than just having a bright smile.
Tooth decay is one such example. Tooth decay remains the single most common chronic disease of childhood. Two-thirds of U.S. children aged 12-19 have some level of dental decay. Dental decay is 5 times more common than asthma, and 4 times more common than childhood obesity, despite being completely preventable.
There are several other diseases that primarily affect the mouth that can lead to tooth loss and systemic inflammation in the body. The most common is periodontitis (gum disease), which affects up to 47% of adults aged 30 or older.
The health of the mouth can mirror the health of the body. Oral health can indicate an issue elsewhere and can also lead to problems in the body. These problems may also reduce the quality of life. Maintaining good oral hygiene is not simply a matter of having clean teeth. Instead, it is an important part of maintaining health overall.
Keeping Up Your Oral Health
Regular visits to your dental practice play a vital role in managing oral health. Seeking consistent dental care helps your dental health professionals identify and remedy issues with teeth and gums. It can also assess the overall condition of your oral health, identify any potential issues, and create a plan for preventive care.
Between visits to a clinical practice, the best way to keep your teeth clean and disease-free, your gums pink and healthy, and your breath fresh is by creating a daily oral hygiene program. Your daily routine should include all of the following:
- Tooth brushing and flossing. Brush your teeth at least twice each day, and floss at least once. Doing so will remove plaque, a bacteria-laden biofilm, from the surfaces of your teeth. Plaque turns sugars into acids, which erode enamel and cause decay. Unaddressed bacteria can also lead to gum diseases.
- Utilizing fluoride. Fluoride is used to strengthen enamel. It is important for children’s developing teeth and can help prevent decay in children and adults. Even if you drink fluoridated water, be sure to use fluoride toothpaste to receive the maximum effect. Fluoride can also be applied directly to your teeth by your registered dental hygienist.
- Limiting snacking between meals. Sugary snacks are the ideal source of fuel for bacteria that cause decay. When you eat them regularly throughout the day, acid develops on a constant loop. Give your mouth a break, and limit sugary treats at and between mealtimes.
- Using an appropriate mouth rinse (especially if you are at greater risk). Therapeutic mouth rinses do far more than simply mask a bad smell or hide an unpleasant taste. Appropriate rinses can actually improve your oral health. Some over-the-counter items are designed primarily for cosmetic benefits, but therapeutic rinses contain anti-bacterial and anti-cariogenic (cavity-fighting) ingredients.
Using a therapeutic rinse has been proven to control the advent of plaque and bacteria, and can prevent cavities more effectively than brushing and flossing alone.
- Quitting tobacco. Whether tobacco is smoked or ingested, it greatly increases the risk of developing oral cancer, gum disease, and tooth decay, in addition to heart disease and lung cancer. If you currently use tobacco, our team would be happy to point you toward education and resources to learn effective methods to quit.
- Examine your oral cavity regularly. After you’ve established your regular dental hygiene routine, you will be able to quickly identify any changes in your mouth. From chipped teeth to swollen gums to unusual sores, the more familiar you are with your oral health, the more likely you are to recognize an issue when it arises. When you do find a cause for concern, let us know! Early treatment provides the best chance to remedy many common dental ailments.
One of the most significant goals of modern dentistry is prevention. In our careers as dental professionals, we strive to help you keep your teeth and gums healthy for your lifetime. By following a conscientious and consistent oral hygiene program, you create the best possible chance at making this goal your reality.
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