Care for Your Smile
Amanda - Actual Patient
Preventative dentistry relies on good oral hygiene and regular dental care; and it is important throughout your life, whatever your age. By practicing good oral hygiene at home and visiting the doctor regularly, you will help prevent dental problems and save time and money. In the process, you can save your teeth and gums.
By fighting plaque you can keep your teeth for a lifetime. Today, in fact, older adults are keeping their natural teeth longer because of scientific developments and an emphasis on preventative dentistry.
Good oral hygiene requires an understanding of plaque. Plaque is a sticky, colorless layer of bacteria. When you eat carbohydrates (foods made of sugar or starch) you feed this plaque, which in turn produces acids that attack tooth enamel, cause cavities, and develop a hard substance called calculus (tartar). Uninterrupted, the acid attacks can result in tooth decay and gum disease (also known as periodontal disease). If left untreated, gum disease can cause loss of teeth and bone.
At any age, you can begin the fight with plaque and keep your teeth and gums healthy. It's really quite easy. Simply:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to remove food particles and plaque from the tooth surfaces. While you're at it, brush the top surface of your tongue to eliminate bad breath and bacteria buildup.
- Clean between your teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner. Decay-causing bacteria can linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can't reach. Flossing removes plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.
- Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks. If a snack is needed, nutritious foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese, or a piece of fruit should be chosen.
- Schedule regular checkups. Visit the doctor regularly (every 6 months) for professional cleanings and oral exams.
- Ask the doctor about dental sealants, a protective plastic coating that can be applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay often starts.
- Wear mouth protection such as a mouthguard when you play contact sports or extreme sports.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Tooth decay (a cavity) can develop on any surface of any tooth. Because cavities grow, they are much easier and less expensive to treat when they are small. A decaying tooth may not hurt, so you could have a cavity and not realize it. The dentist checks for tooth decay at your regular check-ups and will periodically use x-rays to check for decay between teeth. The dentist treats tooth decay by cleaning out the cavity and placing a restoration (filling) in the tooth. By following the strategies listed above, you can prevent tooth decay.
How to Brush Your Teeth
» View step-by-step instructions for brushing your teeth
You should replace your toothbrush every three or four months — or sooner if the bristles become frayed. A worn toothbrush will not do a good job of cleaning your teeth. Children's toothbrushes often need replacing more frequently than adults because they can wear out sooner.
How to Floss Your Teeth
» View step-by-step instructions for flossing your teeth
People who have difficulty handling dental floss may prefer to use another kind of interdental cleaner. These aids include special brushes, picks, and sticks. If you use interdental cleaners, ask the doctor about how to use them properly to avoid injuring your gums.