Dental cavities result from bacteria that break down food particles, producing acid that eats away at the tooth’s hard enamel covering. Though these caries, as they’re also known, are mostly preventable, they’re still the most common chronic disease for children 6-11 and adolescents 12-19. In fact, the decay is four times more prevalent than asthma among those 14-17 years old. Nine out of 10 adults over 20 also have some degree of tooth root decay.
At the dental office of Dr. Raul G. Molina Jr., we also find that adults over 35 lose more teeth from periodontal (gum) disease than from cavities. A lot of this has to do with improper dental hygiene. That’s why we’re committed to providing you with the best possible support for improving and maintaining good oral hygiene. Here’s what you need to know.
Oral hygiene and overall health
Your oral health affects more than just your mouth — it affects your overall health, too.
Your mouth is filled with bacteria, most of them harmless, but some of them aren’t. Since your mouth is an entry point for your respiratory and digestive tracts, if any harmful bacteria reach the bloodstream or inner organs, they can cause disease.
Normally the body’s immune system, combined with good oral hygiene, can keep the bacterial population under control. However, if you don’t practice good oral hygiene, these bacteria can lead to tooth decay and gum disease, potentially infecting the rest of the body. Some of the conditions caused by poor oral hygiene include:
- Endocarditis: an infection of the heart’s inner lining
- Cardiovascular disease: heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke linked to bacterial inflammation and infections
- Pregnancy complications: premature birth and low birth weight
- Respiratory diseases: when bacteria are pulled into the lungs
5 ways to improve dental hygiene
Here are five steps you can take to improve your dental hygiene and your overall health.
1. Brush twice a day
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Hold your toothbrush at a slight angle — about 45 degrees — aiming the bristles to where your teeth meet your gum, and gently brush with circular back-and-forth motions. Don’t brush too hard, as you might injure your gums.
Brush for at least 30 seconds per quadrant, remembering to brush the outside, inside, and chewing surfaces of your teeth. And don’t forget your tongue, which can also harbor bacteria. Use either the toothbrush or a plastic tongue scraper to ensure it’s clean.
2. Floss once a day
A toothbrush can’t reach bacteria hiding in the tight spaces between teeth and under the gumline, which is why you need to floss.
Be generous with floss, breaking off about 18 inches. Wind most of it around the middle finger on one hand, and the remainder around the middle finger on the other hand. Grip it tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.
Guide the floss gently between your teeth using a rubbing motion — snapping it into your gums may injure the gum tissue. When the floss reaches the gum, make a “C” shape around the side of one tooth, rubbing it up and down; then do the side of the other tooth. Unwind fresh floss as you move to each new space. When you’re finished, rinse your mouth with water to remove all the dislodged plaque and food particles.
3. Use a dental rinse
Some dental rinses dislodge plaque before you brush; others are meant to be used as a final rinse once you’ve brushed and flossed. Most mouth rinses reduce the amount of acid in the mouth; clean hard-to-brush areas, especially in and around the gums; and remineralize the teeth with fluoride. You can use OTC dental rinses, or you can ask Dr. Molina if he prefers you to use a prescription variety.
4. Drink lots of water
In addition to helping you stay hydrated, water functions much the same way saliva does in the mouth — it flushes away bacteria and food particles before they can form a plaque on the teeth and gums.
5. See your dentist twice a year
Everything you do at home is critical to maintaining good oral hygiene, but there’s nothing as good as a professional cleaning to ensure you’ve cleared all the bad stuff away. In addition, at your appointment, Dr. Molina checks for signs of tooth decay and early gum disease, as well as for oral cancer. The goal is to catch problems early so they’re easier, less painful, and less expensive to treat.
If you want to learn more about what you can do to improve your dental hygiene, contact Dr. Molina’s office by calling (305) 614-0211 or by scheduling a consultation online. The more proactive you are, the better your dental and overall health will be.