Why is Oral Health Important?
Good oral health means a mouth that has no pain or disease - which can range all the way from gum inflammation (gingivitis) to oral cancer; a bite that functions well enough for you to eat without pain and get ample nutrition; and a smile that you can be proud of. Good oral healthcare habits create the best option for overall full body health and well-being.
It is important to realize that small - and readily treatable - problems in your mouth can become more complicated, expensive, and painful if neglected for too long. Some of these oral health conditions may even have implications throughout the whole body. Gingivitis can sometimes progress to periodontitis - a more serious form of gum disease that can loosen teeth and cause them to fall out. Missing teeth can lead to bone loss in the jaw and inadequate nutrition. And numerous studies have shown that people with severe gum disease may be at increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The moral of this story: Routine maintenance can pay off big.
Dental Cleanings, Exams & X-Rays
Regular dental visits play a critical role in maintaining your oral health — not only to find and remedy any problems with teeth or gums, but also to assess the general condition of your oral health, point out potential trouble spots, and offer suggestions for preventive care. In between visits, the best way to keep your teeth clean and free of disease, your gums pink and healthy, and your breath fresh, is a program of daily oral hygiene. Your regular routine should include the following:
Brush and Floss. You should brush at least twice a day and floss at least once daily. This will help remove plaque, a bacteria from the surfaces of your teeth. The bacteria in plaque can turn sugars from food into acids, which attack the tooth's enamel and cause tooth decay. Some bacteria can also cause gingivitis and other gum diseases such as periodontal disease.
Say "Yes!" to Fluoride. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel — it's essential for children's developing teeth, and helps prevent decay in both kids and adults. Even if your municipal water is fluoridated, you should always use fluoride toothpaste. If more fluoride is needed, it can be applied directly to your teeth at the dental office.
Use an appropriate mouth wash/rinse — especially if you're at increased risk for gum disease or constantly find you have cavities. Mouth rinses do more than temporarily mask bad smells or tastes in your mouth — they can improve your overall oral hygiene. Using a mouth rinse has been proven to control plaque bacteria and prevent cavities better than brushing and flossing alone.
Quit tobacco. Whether smoked or smokeless, tobacco use greatly increases your risk of oral cancer, gum disease, and tooth decay (not to mention heart disease and lung cancer… but you already knew that). If you use tobacco, ask us how to quit now.
Examine your mouth regularly. Once you've established a regular routine, you'll quickly recognize any changes in your mouth — like chipped teeth, red or swollen gums, or unusual sores. If you find something of concern, let us know. Early treatment offers the best chance to remedy many problems.
See your Dentist at minimum twice per year. Your dentist and hygienist will take x-rays (radiographs) of your teeth generally once per year to check for cavities, abscesses, and to check for weak areas in your tooth structure. During this radiological exam the dentist will also check for lesions that can lead to oral cancer, and verify all your tissues look healthy. Regular and routine visits allow for a much more efficient and effective plan for treating all oral health concerns.
Periodontal Disease & Maintenance
It is not a requirement that we lose teeth as we age. If we maintain good oral hygiene and have regular professional cleanings and oral examinations, chances are we can keep our natural teeth for life. That involves not only caring for the teeth themselves, but also the structures that surround them: the gums and tooth-supporting bone.
Gum disease, which is a bacterial infection, threatens these supporting tissues. That is why dental professionals are always on the lookout for early signs that patients may not notice. When signs of trouble become apparent, periodontal therapy may be suggested. Periodontal therapy can take various forms, but the goal is always to restore diseased tissues to health. Gum (periodontal) disease can spread from the gums to the bone that supports the teeth, and may even cause tooth loss in the most severe cases. There are very effective therapies to combat this, ranging from scalings (deep cleanings) that remove plaque and calculus (tartar) from beneath the gum line, to surgical repair of lost gum and bone tissue.
Periodontal Therapy Procedures
Periodontal therapy includes both surgical and non-surgical techniques to restore health to the tissues that support the teeth (gums and bone) and prevent tooth loss. They include:
Scaling and Root Planing. These deep-cleaning techniques are the best starting point to control gum disease. Plaque and calculus (tartar) are removed from beneath the gum tissues, using hand scalers and/or ultrasonic instruments that combine water and vibration to gently remove the calculus/tarter.
Periodontal Maintenance. After completing deep cleaning procedures your gums and bone will be evaluated for every 3 months to ensure the procedure was enough to help your tissues heal. Since periodontal (gum) disease is a life long condition, more frequent visits are required to maintain your gum tissue and bone health. These visits are recommended to be completed every 3-4 months depending on the extent of your periodontal health.
If the deep cleaning procedures were not adequate in treating the periodontal conditions at the 3 month dental followup appointment, then a referral to a Periodontist (Specialist in Gum Disease & Bone Loss) may be required to meet your specific dental needs and further your treatment.
Your Role in Periodontal Health
Dental plaque is the main cause of periodontal disease, so it's essential to remove it every day with effective brushing and flossing. This doesn't mean scrubbing, which can actually cause your gums to recede. Proper techniques can be demonstrated for you, if you have any questions.
Of course, there are some areas of the mouth that a toothbrush and floss just can't reach, which is why it's so important to have regular professional cleanings at the dental office. Your regular dental exam is also a time when early signs of gum disease can be detected — before they become apparent even to you.
Eating a nutritious diet low in sugar, and staying away from tobacco in all forms, will also increase your periodontal health — and your chances of keeping your teeth for life.