While much of the food we eat is essential for
our health and well-being, it can also be a source of peril for our teeth! The
reason for this is that the bacteria present in our mouths convert the sugars
and starches in our food into acids. These bacteria and acids mix with food
particles to form plaque, a sticky film that coats our teeth.
This attacks the teeth and, if it occurs frequently
enough, causes the teeth to decay by dissolving the enamel (hard outer casing
of the tooth). If left unchecked, it leads to the development of microscopic
cavities and the tooth eventually becomes decayed.
Plaque also produces toxins that irritate the gums
and cause them to become inflamed and diseased (gingivitis). Over time this
can lead to the spread of infection to the bone in the jaw and loss of teeth
due to a lack of adequate support from the gum and bone surrounding it (periodontal
Plaque attracts mineral deposits from saliva, causing
a build up of a substance known as tartar. Tartar is a hard substance that becomes
encrusted on the teeth and a more dangerous type of bacteria builds up within
The bacteria that flourish in the mouth are also
a source of bad breath, which is caused by the breakdown of food particles into
sulphur compounds. It is these compounds which are responsible for the bad odour.
There are a number of ways that these problems
can be avoided. Good oral hygiene in the form of regular brushing and flossing
is ideal. However, while it sounds simple, it is important to know how to carry
these out correctly.
Brushing removes plaque from the tooth surfaces
and it is important to do so at least twice a day. The shape of your brush should
fit your mouth and you should use one with soft, synthetic bristles. Dentists
recommend that you replace your toothbrush when it becomes splayed, usually
every three months.
You should also use a pea-sized amount of fluoride
toothpaste, which helps prevent against decay. It is best to place the toothbrush
bristles at a 45 degree angle against the gums and teeth and to brush gently
using short strokes.
Ensure that you brush all surfaces of the tooth
carefully, taking care not to forget about the gum line as well. Slide the bristle
tips under the gums to ensure that any plaque there will be removed.
For the inside surfaces of your front teeth, you
should tilt the brush vertically and make several up and down strokes with the
tip of the brush. Brushing your tongue will also help to freshen your breath
by removing debris and bacteria.
Be careful not to brush the teeth too vigorously
or use a brush with very hard bristles as this may cause the gums to recede
and may wear away the enamel, leading to the development of very sensitive teeth.
While brushing removes plaque from the teeth, flossing
is also very important to remove plaque from between the teeth. It is recommended
that you floss your teeth at least once a day. It should only take a couple
of minutes and will prove a shrewd investment of time in the long run.
When flossing, it helps to have a good grip of
the dental floss and to keep it taut between the fingers. Break off several
inches of floss and wind it around the middle finger of each hand. Hold the
floss between both thumbs and forefingers, leaving about an inch in between.
The floss can then be guided gently between the
teeth where you should use a gentle, zig-zag rubbing motion. It should be moved
away from the gum using an up and down motion and all teeth should be cleaned
in this way using a clean section of floss for each. The gumline can be reached
by gently sliding the floss into a C-shape and sliding it into the space between
the gum and tooth.
Some people may find that the floss digs into their
fingers when flossing but it is available pre-mounted on a small stick if necessary.
Some dental flosses also have a tendency to fray or break, which can be avoided
by using the waxed variety.
If you have never flossed before or havent
done it for a while, you may notice a small amount of blood on the floss after
you use it. This indicates that your gums are slightly inflamed and in need
of regular flossing. You may also notice a white build up on the floss associated
with the presence of plaque between your teeth.
While good oral hygiene plays an essential part
in the prevention of dental decay and gum disease, regular trips to the dentist
are essential to ensure that any problems are detected early.