Your oral health is more important than you may realize. Did you know that your oral health can offer clues about your overall health? Or that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body? Understand the intimate connection between oral health and overall health and what you can do to protect yourself. Regular cleanings and exams are the best way to keep your mouth healthy and happy!
Your mouth is teeming with bacteria — most of them harmless. Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control. However, harmful bacteria can sometimes grow out of control and cause oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
There are so many different types of toothbrushes on the market today. How do I know which one is the right one for me?
This is a good question, which we hear daily. The brand of the toothbrush is not nearly as critical as the type of bristle, the size and shape of the head and how frequently you replace your brush. We recommend a soft bristled brush. The soft bristles are most important for the health of your gums. Daily frequency of brushing and replacement with a new brush are much more important issues than the brand you choose. We recommend replacing your brush at least every three months.
To avoid gum disease
Dental plaque is made up of harmful micro-organisms which include bacteria, viruses and protozoa (microscopic parasites). If there is plaque left between teeth and near gums, it can accumulate and cause inflammation. This is the first phase of gum disease which is called gingivitis. If gingivitis is not taken care of, it may develop into periodontitis, a more advanced and more severe stage of the disease. Periodontitis damages the alveolar bone that holds teeth in the jaw. If not treated, this disease may therefore eventually lead to tooth loss.
To avoid dental cavities
Brushing alone can not clean the whole area around a tooth when there is another tooth beside it. Flossing completes tooth brushing by removing dental plaque and food debris remaining in the inter-proximal region (the area that is between two teeth). That region is a place where tooth decay commonly forms.
To prevent halitosis (bad breath)
If dental plaque that is found between teeth is not cleaned, it will eventually release a bad smell from your mouth. This is a major reason why a person may suffer from bad breath (halitosis). Tooth decay and gum disease, also caused by dental plaque, are a source of a bad smell in the mouth as well.
To prevent tartar build-up
If dental plaque accumulates around the teeth without being removed, it can turn into tartar by the calcifying action from the saliva. Tartar can also cause gum disease. The continuous cleaning of plaque, mainly by using dental floss, can delay its formation. But only regular cleanings and scaling in a dental office can remove the tartar around teeth.
To reduce the risk of heart disease
People suffering from heart disease must be very vigilant with their oral hygiene. The mouth is an entry point to harmful bacteria that may reach cardiac tissue. Infective endocarditis is the inflammation of a part of the heart caused by bacteria. One of these bacteria is the streptococcus which enters the body from the oral cavity. Moreover, if you suffer from heart disease, by keeping your mouth and teeth clean, you can reduce the risk of complications. You must be very thorough by brushing at least twice a day, and also floss daily.
To avoid the complications of diabetes
There is evidence that diabetes can be aggravated when someone has gum disease. That’s why oral hygiene measures of brushing and flossing are very important to accomplish. In addition, a person who suffers from diabetes has organs that usually heal more slowly. Tissue inflammation can therefore develop more rapidly, particularly at the gum level. It is very important to remove dental plaque and tartar regularly to avoid developing or complicating gum disease.
If your tooth is broken, chipped, or fractured, see Dr. Shirin as soon as possible. Otherwise your tooth could be damaged further or become infected, possibly causing you to end up losing the tooth.
In the meantime, try the following self-care measures:
- If the tooth is painful, take acetaminophen or another over-the-counter pain reliever. Rinse your mouth with salt water.
- If the break has caused a sharp or jagged edge, cover it with a piece of wax paraffin or sugarless chewing gum to keep it from cutting your tongue or the inside of your lip or cheek.
- If you must eat, eat soft foods and avoid biting down on the broken tooth.
Treatment for a broken or chipped tooth will depend on how severely it is damaged. If only a small piece of enamel broke off, the repair can usually be done simply in one office visit. A badly damaged or broken tooth may require a more lengthy procedure. Here are some ways your dentist may repair your broken or chipped tooth.
Dental Filling or Bonding
If you have chipped off just a small piece of tooth enamel, your dentist may repair the damage with a tooth filling. If the repair is to a front tooth or can be seen when you smile, your dentist will likely use a procedure called bonding, which uses a tooth-colored composite resin. Bonding is a simple procedure that typically does not require numbing the tooth. To bond a tooth, the dentist first etches its surface with a liquid to roughen it and make the bonding material adhere to it. Next, the dentist applies an adhesive material to the tooth, followed by the bonding material. After shaping the bonding material to look like a natural tooth, the dentist uses an ultraviolet light to harden the material.
Dental Cap or Crown
If a large piece of tooth breaks off or the tooth has a lot of decay, the dentist may grind or file away part of the remaining tooth and cover it with a crown, or tooth-shaped cap, made to protect the tooth and improve its appearance. Permanent crowns can be made from metal, porcelain fused to metal, all resin, or all ceramic. Different types have different benefits. All-metal crowns are the strongest. Porcelain and resin crowns can be made to look nearly identical to the original tooth. If the entire top of the tooth is broken off but the root is still intact, the dentist can often place a pin or a post in the root and build up enough of a structure onto which a crown can be made. Later, the dentist can cement the crown over the pin or post-retained restoration.
Brush and floss more frequently.
One of the prime causes of bad breath is plaque, the sticky build-up on teeth that harbors bacteria. Food left between teeth adds to the problem. All of us should brush at least twice a day and floss daily. If you’re worried about your breath, brush and floss a little more often. But don’t overdo it. Brushing too aggressively can erode enamel, making your teeth more vulnerable to decay.
Scrape your tongue
The coating that normally forms on the tongue can harbor foul-smelling bacteria. To eliminate them, gently brush your tongue with your toothbrush. Some people find that toothbrushes are too big to comfortably reach the back of the tongue. In that case, try a tongue scraper. Tongue scrapers are an essential tool in a proper oral health care routine. They’re designed specifically to remove bacteria, food debris, and dead cells that brushing alone can’t remove.
Avoid foods that sour your breath
Onions and garlic are the prime offenders. Unfortunately, brushing after you eat onions or garlic doesn’t help. The volatile substances they contain make their way into your blood stream and travel to your lungs, where you breathe them out. The only way to avoid the problem is to avoid eating onions and garlic, especially before social or work occasions when you’re concerned about your breath.
Kick the habit
Bad breath is just one of many reasons not to smoke. Smoking damages gum tissue and stains teeth. It also increases your risk of oral cancer. Over-the-counter nicotine patches can help tame the urge to smoke. If you need a little help, make an appointment to talk to your doctor about prescription medications or quit smoking programs that can help you give up tobacco for good.
Rinse your mouth out
In addition to freshening your breath, anti-bacterial mouthwashes add extra protection by reducing plaque-causing bacteria. After eating, swishing your mouth with plain water also helps freshen your breath by eliminating food particles.
Skip after-dinner mints and chew gum instead
Sugary candies promote the growth of bacteria in your mouth and add to bad breath problems. Instead, chew sugarless gum. “Gum stimulates saliva, which is the mouth’s natural defense mechanism against plaque acids which cause tooth decay and bad breath,
Keep your gums healthy
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common cause of bad breath. Bacteria accumulate in pockets at the base of teeth, creating bad odors. If you have gum disease, your dentist may recommend a periodontist, who specializes in treating gum disease.
Be alert to dry mouth
Lack of saliva promotes tooth decay and can cause bad breath. If your mouth is dry, drink plenty of water during the day. Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy, which helps stimulate saliva. Use a humidifier at night if the air is dry. If your mouth is still unusually dry, talk to your dentist or doctor. Dry mouth is a side effect of certain medications.
See your doctor
If your bad breath continues despite your best efforts, see your doctor. Bad breath can be a symptom of medical conditions such as a sinus infection, postnasal drip from allergies, lung infections, diabetes, or liver or kidney diseases.