The secrets of brushing and flossing your teeth effectively

Though many of us say we brush our teeth regularly, you get the best results by making sure you brush properly.

Here are the steps you should follow:

First, place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.

Then, move the brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes.

Brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.

Use the “toe” of the brush to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, using a gentle up-and-down stroke.

Finally, brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.

As well as brushing your teeth, you should floss them every day. Here’s how to floss for best results.

Break off about 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers.

Then wind the remaining floss around the same finger on the opposite hand. This finger will take up the floss as it becomes dirty.

Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.

Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion. Never snap the floss into the gums.

When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it into a C shape against one tooth. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth.

Hold the floss tightly against the tooth. Gently rub the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum with up and down motions.

Repeat this method on the rest of your teeth.

Don’t forget the back side of your last tooth.

If you have difficulty handling dental floss, consider other types of interdental cleaner such as special brushes, picks or sticks.

Your dentist or hygienist will be able to give your further tips on how to brush and floss for best results.

Common mouth sores: causes and cures

Mouth sores can be very annoying and painful and can have many causes.

The causes can range from infections – bacterial, viral or fungal – to a loose orthodontic wire or a denture that doesn’t fit or a sharp edge from a broken tooth or filling.

But mouth sores may be symptoms of an underlying disease or problem.

So, if you’ve had any mouth sore that lasts a week or longer, it’s a good idea to get your dentist to check it out.

Here are some of the most common mouth sores:

Canker sores: These are small ulcers with a white or gray base and a red border. They appear inside the mouth and are not contagious though they often return. Problems such as poor immune systems, viruses or fatigue and stress may be involved. They usually heal on their own after a week or two.

Cold sores: Cold sores are annoying and painful. They are also known as fever blisters or Herpes simplex and are groups of fluid-filled blisters. They often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or around the chin. Cold sores caused by herpes virus type 1 are very contagious and the virus stays in the body. Cold sore blisters usually heal in a week by themselves.

Candidiasis: This fungal infection (also called moniliasis or oral thrush) occurs when the yeast Candida albicans reproduce in large numbers. It is common among denture wearers and people who have dry mouth syndrome are very susceptible to it. The focus is on preventing it or controlling the conditions that caused the outbreak.

Any mouth sores that last more than a few days should be checked with your dentist.

How to make your smile brighter

Your smile makes a huge difference to what people think about you and how you feel about yourself.

And there are many options available to help you improve the look and brightness of your smile, including:

In-office bleaching: During chair-side bleaching, the dentist will apply either a protective gel to your gums or a rubber shield to protect the oral soft tissues. A bleaching agent is then applied to the teeth, and a special light may be used to enhance the action of the agent.

At-home bleaching: There are several types of products available for use at home, which can either be dispensed by your dentist or purchased over-the-counter. These include peroxide bleaching solutions, which actually bleach the tooth enamel. Peroxide-containing whiteners typically come in a gel and are placed in a mouth guard.

Whitening toothpastes: All toothpastes help remove surface stain through the action of mild abrasives. “Whitening” toothpastes include special chemical or polishing agents that are more effective at removing stains. However, unlike bleaches, they don’t alter the intrinsic color of teeth.

Start by speaking to your dentist. He or she will tell you if whitening procedures would be effective for you as whiteners may not correct all types of discoloration.

Your saliva and why it’s so important

You probably don’t give too much thought to the saliva in your mouth, but if you think of it like a bloodstream you’ll realize how important it is.

Like blood, saliva helps build and maintain the health of the soft and hard tissues.

It removes waste products from the mouth and offers first-line protection against microbial invasion that might lead to disease.

Saliva is derived from blood and therefore can also be used to detect disease.

Saliva enhances enamel protection by providing high levels of calcium and phosphate ions. It contains the minerals that maintain the integrity of the enamel surface and helps protect against caries.

When salivary flow is reduced, oral health deteriorates – much in the same way body tissues suffer if blood circulation is disrupted.

Patients with dry mouths (xerostomia) experience difficulty chewing, speaking and swallowing. A major cause of dry mouth is medication – almost eighty percent of the most commonly prescribed medications lead to dry mouth.

Chewing gum after a snack or meal stimulates salivary flow, clearing food from the mouth and neutralizing plaque acid.

Your saliva is important to your oral health both for preventing disease and in helping to diagnose problems.

Caring for people who have special needs

People at any age can have a condition that makes it difficult for them to look after their own dental health.

This could affect people who suffer from a wide range of conditons such as stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, mental retardation, Down syndrome, genetic disorders, Alzheimer’s disease or arthritis.

However, people in all of these categories have the same dental needs as everyone else – they need daily brushing and flossing, regular dental visits and a balanced diet.

There are some steps caregivers can take to make it easier to look after people in those categories.

If the person is uncooperative or uncontrollable, try to explain what you are about to do and schedule the task for a time of day when they are rested.

Move in a calm, slow, reassuring manner to avoid startling them. Give praise and encourage them when they help themselves.

Support the person’s head, and take special care to prevent choking or gagging when the head is tilted back.

If the person is unable or unwilling to keep their mouth open, your dentist will explain how you can make and use a mouth prop.

Ask your dentist for advice on how to care for people with special needs and check if they have facilities for caring for these needs in the dental office.

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

If you sometimes find the taste of something hot or cold painful on your teeth, you may suffer from sensitive teeth.

Sensitive teeth is a common problem which may be caused by cavities and fractured teeth.

But it can also be caused by worn tooth enamel, a cracked tooth or an exposed tooth root.

Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in the body and it protects the crowns of healthy teeth. A layer called cementum protects the tooth root under the gum line.

The part underneath the enamel and the cementum is called dentin, which is less dense than enamel or cementum.

The dentin contains small hollow tubes or canals called tubules. When the dentin loses its protective covering, the tubules allow hot, cold, acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth.

This causes hypersensitivity and occasional discomfort but fortunately, the irritation does not cause permanent damage.

Following proper oral hygiene helps prevent the gums from receding and causing the pain of sensitive teeth.

Brushing your teeth incorrectly or even brushing too much can cause gum problems.

Your dentist will advise you on the best daily routint to maximize your oral hygiene.

Things to look out for during pregnancy

Every woman wants to maintain their own health during pregnancy and to take whatever steps are necessary to give the baby the best possible start.

There are a few factors in your oral health to look out for during this time.

One consideration is that it’s common for pregnant women to have the urge to eat between meals. The risk is that frequent snacking on carbohydrate-containing foods can encourage tooth decay.

Bacteria in your mouth � called plaque � can convert the sugar and starch in your mouth into an acid that attacks tooth enamel. After repeated attacks, tooth decay can result.

So, when you need a snack, try to choose foods that are nutritious for you and your baby such as raw fruits and vegetables and dairy products.

During pregnancy, your body’s hormone levels rise considerably. Gum problems, such as gingivitis, are especially common during the second to eighth months of pregnancy. They may cause red, puffy or tender gums that bleed when you brush.

This is an exaggerated response to plaque caused by higher levels of progesterone in your system. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings at some stages to help you avoid problems.

Occasionally overgrowths of gum tissue, called “pregnancy tumors,” appear on the gums during the second trimester. These localized growths or swellings are usually found between the teeth and are thought to be related to excess plaque.

They bleed easily and are often surgically removed after the baby is born.

Studies indicate that pregnant women who have severe periodontal (gum) disease may be at increased risk for pre-term delivery, which in turn increases the risk of having a low-birth-weight baby.

So it’s particularly important to maintain good oral health during pregnancy. Make sure you clean your teeth carefully and visit your dentist regularly.

Why dry mouth can be a problem and what to do about it

Your saliva plays an important role in your oral health and reduced saliva flow can lead to health problems.

Reduced saliva flow can lead to a dry mouth and this is a common problem among older adults.

It can be caused by various medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.

Dry mouth can be associated with various problems such as a constant sore throat, burning sensation, problems speaking, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or dry nasal passages.

Drying irritates the soft tissues in the mouth, which can make them inflamed and more susceptible to infection. Without the cleansing effects of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health problems become more common.

So, if dry mouth is not treated, it can damage your teeth.

Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive decay can occur.

Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture. Sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.

Tips for people with difficulty handling a toothbrush

There are many people who find it difficult to look after their dental health properly because they have problems handling a toothbrush.

This can be due to a severe physical disability or simply basic dexterity problems.

There are a few simple steps you can take to make it easier for people who find it difficult to hold on to a toothbrush or dental floss.

Here are some simple ‘home remedies’:

– Use a wide elastic band to attach the brush to the hand

– Enlarge the brush handle with a sponge, rubber ball or bicycle handle grip

– Wind an elastic bandage or adhesive tape around the handle

– Lengthen the handle with a piece of wood or plastic such as a ruler, popsicle stick or tongue depressor

– Tie floss into a loop for easier handling

– Use an electric toothbrush or commercial floss holder

Your dentist will be able to provide specific guidance and further tips for people who need an easier way to handle a toothbrush and floss.

Choosing the right mouthwash to meet your needs

These days many people like to use a mouthwash and there is a huge range of options to choose from.

The key to choosing the right one for your needs is being clear about what you are using it for.

Many people opt for mouthwash because they want to have fresh breath.

But many mouthwashes contain alcohol which can cause the mouth to dry. It’s best to minimize the chances of suffering from dry mouth as it can increase your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Therefore if you want fresh breath, a breath spray or drops may meet your needs better.

Another reason for using mouthwash is when you’ve been told you have a gum disease such as gingivitis. In this case, you’ll need to choose a mouthwash that contains ingredients known to kill the bacteria that cause gingivitis.

If you like to use a mouthwash that improves your oral health, use one that contains fluoride.

Read the directions of your mouthwash and make sure you spit it out.

Don’t assume that the most expensive mouthwashes are best. Think carefully about your needs and check the ingredients.

Your dentist will be able to advise you on the best choice of mouthwash.