Why is oral hygiene important?
Good oral hygiene helps to prevent dental problems – mainly dental plaque and tartar (calculus) which are the main causes of gum disease and caries (tooth decay). Good oral hygiene may also help to prevent or delay dental erosion.
- Dental plaque is a soft whitish deposit that forms on the surface of teeth. It forms when germs (bacteria) combine with food and saliva. Plaque contains many types of bacteria. You can remove plaque by good oral hygiene.
- Tartar (calculus) is hardened calcified plaque. It sticks firmly to teeth. Generally, it can only be removed with special instruments by a dentist or dental hygienist.
Some common dental problems related to poor oral hygiene
- Tooth decay (caries): When holes form in parts of the enamel of a tooth, it is know as caries. A main cause of caries is due to a buildup of plaque. The germs (bacteria) in the plaque react with sugars and starches in food to form acids. The acids are kept next to the teeth by the sticky plaque and dissolve the tooth enamel. If you have tooth decay you may need fillings, crowns or inlays.
- Gum disease (periodontal disease): Gum disease means infection or inflammation of the tissues that surround the teeth. Most cases of gum disease are plaque-related. Plaque contains many different types of bacteria and a build-up of some types of bacteria is associated with developing gum disease.Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. It is also a main cause of bad breath (halitosis). However, gum disease is often treatable.
- Tooth (dental) erosion: Tooth erosion is a common problem. It is the gradual erosion of tooth enamel by the action of acid on the teeth. This is different from damage caused by bacteria resulting in tooth decay and caries. Tooth erosion affects the entire surface of the tooth. In time, tooth erosion can cause thinned enamel, and eventually can expose the softer dentine underneath the enamel. Dentine is sensitive so erosion can lead to your teeth being more sensitive to hot, cold or sweet foods and drinks.
Your Best Solutions: Routine Oral Hygiene
It is important to get into a regular habit of good oral hygiene. Regular teeth brushing and cleaning between teeth helps to keep your teeth and gums healthy, and helps to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Other things that may help include mouthwashes, tongue cleaning, and eating a healthy diet, which includes limiting sugary drinks and foods. If you smoke, stopping smoking will improve oral hygiene. Have a dental check-up at least once a year.
Have regular dental checks at intervals recommended by your dentist (this is normally at least once a year). A dentist can detect a build-up of plaque and remove tartar (calculus). Early or mild gingivitis can be detected and treated to prevent the more severe periodontitis. A dentist can also advise about special coating of children’s teeth to help prevent tooth decay.
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