Taking care of your mouth during self-isolation.
Oral health advice from our Dental Hygienist
The cause of the two main dental diseases (Gum disease and Tooth decay) is Plaque the sticky bacterial layer that grows in our mouths in the absence of good Oral Hygiene.(OH) Plaque is a biofilm ( Think of it as "Bug soup" - horrible I know ,but a good description) In order to prevent dental disease this biofilm needs to be disturbed thoroughly and regularly.
How can a Hygienist help oral hygiene?
A visit to the Hygienist does not just remove the hard deposit (commonly known as tartar) and those pesky stains from too many cups of tea or coffee but also disturbs the biofilm in those hard to reach areas which are difficult to access yourself. However, the rest of the time, disrupting this biofilm is up to YOU, using your toothbrush and other aids designed to get to the places a toothbrush cannot fit (after all you are with your teeth daily …we are not!)
A good Oral Hygiene routine should be as follows:
- Begin by cleaning between all of your teeth first, using bottle brushes dental floss or tape. When using inderdental brushes (bottle brushes) ensure they fit snugly between the teeth, if they are too small they will be ineffective at removing the plaque properly. (Too big and they will be painful to use and could cause damage) The Dentist or Hygienist can show you how to use these properly and tell you which sizes you need as most mouths need several sizes to clean in all the different sized gaps. Read our article on gum disease prevention for more information
Now brush all your teeth using either a good quality medium nylon bristle manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush (our preferred choice) using Fluoride toothpaste. If you are considering an electric toothbrush and are not sure which one to choose ,the two most important functions to look for are:
- 2 minute timer which will pulse every 30 seconds so you clean each quarter of your mouth equally (i.e. top teeth outside and inside and bottom teeth outside and inside)
- a pressure sensor which will operate a flashing red light telling you if you apply too much pressure which could damage the teeth.
- Brush twice a day, every day (Plaque bacteria never take a day off! So, neither should your toothbrush) Brush before breakfast and at night at least an hour after dinner. A common error is to brush teeth immediately after meals. If the meal contained any acidic foods ( Hello grapefruit, fruit topped muesli toast and jam etc!) the protective layer from our saliva will have been removed by the acid and the enamel softened, if you then brush immediately you will effectively be "scouring" the enamel with your brush and paste and over time this will erode the enamel causing permanent damage and possibly sensitive teeth. Brushing before your breakfast not only removes plaque but the fluoride in the toothpaste will provide a protective layer to "Buffer" any acid that may be about to come into contact with your teeth.
- After brushing at night just spit out the residue of the toothpaste left in your mouth and resist the urge to rinse out. By leaving some toothpaste in your mouth the Fluoride element will remain in contact with your teeth whilst you are asleep, giving them some extra protection.
If you wish to use a Fluoride mouthwash do this at another time during the day not after brushing as you are not gaining any extra benefit, then and will also have washed off all the fluoride toothpaste too.
And finally, a word about improving diet. ...
The present situation means a lot more time at home for the vast majority of people and the temptation to snack more than usual. Unfortunately, constant snacking on refined carbohydrates (basically anything tasty like cakes biscuits sweets, white bread crisps etc) supplies the bacteria in our mouths with a food source so they can thrive and attack our teeth and gums.
It takes up to an hour after eating for the pH (acid/alkali level) in the mouth to return to normal, the saliva in our mouths dilutes and washes away the acid and in doing so helps to protect the teeth. If we snack again within that time frame the tooth surface will not have recovered and will have an increased vulnerability. If this pattern occurs repeatedly dental caries (tooth decay) will occur.
As we age or maybe have to take medication that reduces salivary flow causing a dry mouth, the protective function of saliva is reduced so a high standard of Oral Hygiene is even more important.
No one is perfect all the time, we all like a treat but trying to keep these treats with, or immediately after a meal and avoiding constant grazing on sugary foods will go a long way to avoiding dental decay and gum disease.
KEEP WELL everyone and keep smiling... sunshine is good for your teeth!
Thank you, Angie, that is such a helpful reminder for us all.
Page last updated 06/04/20