Having a clean mouth is important. It gives you fresh breath and a nicer smile. When you eat, bits of food, some too small for you to see, remain in your mouth. They feed bacteria that grow in a sticky film on your teeth. This film, called plaque, is the main cause of tooth decay and gum disease. (Bleeding gums is the first sign of gum disease – a sign which is often ignored! Gum disease can be very advance before a person notices signs of it.)
Brushing your teeth after meals and snacks not only gets rid of the food particles that you can see but it also removes plaque from your teeth. Using fluoride toothpaste is important because the fluoride can help make your teeth stronger. Your dentist or dental hygienist will be able to recommend the best toothbrush for you. Generally, a brush with soft, end-rounded or polished bristles is less likely to injure gum tissue. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three or 4 months. Worn out toothbrushes are ineffective at removing plaque.
Flossing removes plaque and food particles from between teeth and under the gum line. These are areas that your toothbrush cannot reach. Tooth decay and periodontal disease often start in these areas. It is important to clean these areas thoroughly on a daily basis. Flossing is a skill that needs to be learned. It may seem difficult at first but do not be discouraged. With practice you will find that flossing takes only a few minutes of your time each day. Flossing does not have to be part of the “bathroom routine”. Once you have mastered the skills you can do with while watching TV, riding in a vehicle or almost any other place!! Storing floss in several places will help make it a daily habit.
What about mouth rinses and mouthwashes?
If used as directed, in addition to brushing and flossing, mouth rinses and mouthwashes can help to prevent tooth decay. Follow the instructions of your dentist or dental hygienist.
How often should I see my dentist?
If possible, you should visit your dentist every 6 – 12 months for a preventive check up. “Cleaning” appointments might need to be more frequent…depending on your particular needs. Some people require professional cleanings (prophylaxis) every 3 months, some 4 months, some six months and, for a few, just once a year.