Every adult knows that they’re supposed to brush their teeth and floss, but it isn’t clear to many exactly how to do that, when, and for how long. Some think a few surface strokes with any brush at the end of the day should do and flossing can be done every few days to remove any remaining food particles.
Those who take this casual approach don’t just end up with cavities, but the much more serious periodontal disease. To prevent this, teeth need to be brushed for two minutes with a soft brush after breakfast and dinner (stroking each side from the gums towards the tip of the tooth), then flossed before bedtime, scraping off tiny bits of food and drinks, especially after consuming starches and sugars.
If not done thoroughly and correctly, bacteria feast on the remainders and a sticky film called plaque develops. After a few days, this hardens into tartar (also called calculus–not to be confused with the math system!). It is very hard to remove and this will have to be done when you have a professional cleaning by our dental hygienist, who has special tools and techniques. Tartar will infect the gums, which then swell and bleed easily, the first stage of periodontal disease, called gingivitis.
If not treated, the gums will gradually pull away from their support for the tooth, which is the process of recession. Soon, they will become loose and need to be extracted. This in turn causes the neighboring teeth to lean towards the empty socket, loosening them.
To stop from losing all your teeth from this misalignment, you will need to have our periodontist clean up the gums and take a digital x-ray to see if the infection has reached into the jawbone (which might require a bone graft). Then you will need to decide whether to have a dental implant for every tooth lost or a dental bridge that will hold the teeth next to each gap in place. Dentures do not stop the process of teeth becoming loose and the gradual erosion of the underlying bone.
But plaque is an additional threat to your overall health. Studies show that periodontal bacteria get into the bloodstream and cause an inflammatory response that results in the hardening of arteries. This can lead to cardiovascular blockages, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. These bacteria also raise the risk for diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Set an appointment today to have your teeth cleaned by a hygienist and ask her to demonstrate how to brush and floss correctly. Your oral and overall health depends on it.