How to Brush your Teeth

It may surprise you that most people do not brush as frequently or as long as they should and despite brushing, may be using the incorrect brush or technique. The American Dental Association currently recommends that you brush your teeth for two minutes at least two times each day – preferably morning and night or anytime you eat foods that contain sugar. When you brush, your toothbrush should be tilted at a 45 degree angle to your gum line. As you brush, be sure to remove debris from every surface of the teeth – including the backs of the teeth, near the gum line, and on chewing surfaces. It is also important to brush your tongue, as bacteria can accumulate there and cause malodorous breath.

The type of toothbrush you use makes a difference in your oral health. The ADA recommends using a soft-bristled toothbrush with a head that is ergonomically proportioned to the inside of your mouth. Many patients erroneously believe that medium or hard-bristle toothbrushes are more efficient; but these brushes can actually cause abrasions to the teeth and gums, making them more vulnerable to decay. The ADA also recommends replacing your toothbrush about four times yearly or whenever the bristles become frayed. It is also important to use a toothpaste that contains fluoride each day.

Over time, proper brushing techniques and habits will become noticeable and can help you avoid expensive dental bills in the future.

How to Floss your Teeth

Flossing is a very important step in your daily oral hygiene routine. Proper flossing removes plaque and food particles in places where a toothbrush cannot easily reach – such as under the gumline and between the teeth. Developing a healthy habit of flossing can prevent tooth decay and gum disease, and it may allow you to keep more of your natural teeth as you age. To receive maximum benefits from flossing, use the following proper technique:

  • Starting with about 18 inches of floss, wind most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with
  • Holding the floss tautly between your thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up-and-down between your teeth
  • Gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth, making sure you go beneath the gumline. Never snap or force the floss, as this may cut or bruise delicate gum tissue
  • Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth
  • To remove the floss, use the same back-and-forth motion to bring the floss up and away from the teeth

If you have never flossed, be sure to ask your Dentist or Hygienist for a quick in-person tutorial at your next check-up.

Dental Health and your Diet

Maintaining a balanced diet affects more than your waistline – it’s also important to maintaining a healthy smile. Tooth decay is caused by plaque – a thin film of bacteria that coats the teeth.   After you eat or drink, plaque bacteria digest any sugar and produce acids that weaken tooth enamel. The more foods you consume that contain sugar, the bigger the risk there is of plaque developing and eventually leading to cavities. According to the ADA, snacking between meals – especially on sugar-filled foods – can more rapidly lead to decay than eating the same foods with meals. If you must eat a mid-afternoon dessert, reach for the toothbrush afterward. Better yet, swap the dessert or sugary snack for a nutritious, sugar-free snack like string cheese or some baby carrots.

Bad Breath

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, generally stems from bacteria in the mouth, often far back on the tongue. Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth may be warning signs of gum (periodontal) disease. Bad breath can also be caused by certain foods, poor dental hygiene, tobacco use and certain medical conditions.   If you’re concerned about bad breath, it’s important to determine the cause in order to treat it effectively. Some of the possible causes are:

  • Tobacco use: Smoking can cause chronic bad breath because the tar and nicotine build up on surfaces in the mouth. Also, smoking blocks saliva flow, leading to the growth of bacteria. Ask your doctor for advice about quitting.
  • Food: Daily brushing and flossing is imperative to removing food particles remaining in the mouth and around teeth. Those particles can collect bacteria and cause bad breath.
  • Poor dental hygiene: If you do not clean your teeth, gums and tongue on a regular basis, plaque (a colorless deposit composed of bacteria) can build up, resulting in bad breath.
  • Dry mouth: If your mouth is extremely dry, there is not enough saliva to wash away excess food particles and bacteria, which cause an unpleasant smell if they build up on teeth.
  • Medical conditions / infections: Medical conditions such as respiratory tract infections (pneumonia, bronchitis), chronic sinus infections, postnasal drip, chronic acid reflux, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, and some liver or kidney problems can cause bad breath.

While mouthwashes may improve bad breath for the short term, the best way to improve bad breath is to follow a thorough oral care routine. Be sure to brush twice each day and floss at least once a day to remove odor-causing bacteria from the mouth, tongue and teeth. A tongue scraper, available in the dental section of your local pharmacy, is also an excellent way to combat bad breath. If you continue to have an on-going or chronic problem, your dentist may suggest an anti-microbial rinse. To keep your breath fresh between brushings try:

  • Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water after eating
  • Chewing sugarless gum to stimulate saliva flow, which naturally cleanses teeth
  • Snacking on celery, carrots or apples, which can loosen food debris while chewing
  • Eating a nutritious diet, as vitamin deficiency can contribute to bad breath
  • Brushing the tongue in addition to the teeth and gums

Ask your Dentist how to best treat bad breath so you can maintain good oral health.

Electric vs. Manual Brushes

Preventative dentistry is about more than just visiting your dentist twice a year for an exam and thorough cleaning. In fact, the majority of your preventative care is done at-home as a part of your normal hygienic routine. Many patients use manual toothbrushes to remove debris and plaque from their teeth. However, electric brushes have become widely popular in recent years, leaving some to wonder whether one type is better than the other.

You can effectively brush your teeth with either a manual toothbrush or an electric one. However, the rapid movements of motorized versions may be more effective at removing plaque from the teeth and gum line. The American Dental Association does not lean toward one type of brush over the other. It does, however, acknowledge that people with upper body mobility restrictions may better benefit from an electric toothbrush instead of a manual brush. Regardless of which type you decide is right for you, the ADA recommends that all brushes be soft-bristled so as to avoid abrasions that can lead to decay and receding gum lines. There are multiple types of brushes available on the market today. Ask your RTDental hygienist which one she would recommend for you.

Decay Prevention

Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that has been shown to help strengthen teeth in children and also prevent decay in people of all ages. Fluoride helps teeth in two ways. When children eat or drink fluoride in small doses, it enters the bloodstream and becomes part of their developing permanent teeth. Swallowed fluorides (fluoride supplements) also become part of the saliva and strengthen teeth from the outside. Acids are less able to damage tooth enamel strengthened by fluoride.

In addition, people apply fluoride directly to their teeth when they use a fluoride toothpaste or rinse. Both children and adults can also receive fluoride treatments from the dentist. Fluoride applied to the outside of the teeth helps to speed remineralization. Fluoride treatments, applied in the dental office, are strong enough to disrupt the production of acids by bacteria.

The American Dental Association has publicly endorsed the use of fluoride for the prevention of dental caries, as has the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association. Many people drink fluoride everyday without realizing it. Many public water supplies add fluoride to their water.  Ask your RTDental Hygienist about adding a professional fluoride treatment to your regular dental cleaning visit.

Maintaining Good Oral Health During Pregnancy

You have so much to think about during pregnancy, but don’t overlook your oral health, which can be effected by the hormonal changes you will experience during this time. Hormonal changes can increase the risk of developing gum disease which, in turn, can affect the health of your developing baby. Below are some tips to help you maintain good oral health before, during and after pregnancy.

Before Pregnancy

  • Try to make a dental appointment before getting pregnant. This is the optimal time to get your teeth professionally cleaned, gum tissue carefully examined and any oral health problems treated in advance of your pregnancy.

Dental Care during Pregnancy

  • During your pregnancy, you should continue to see your dentist for oral examinations and a professional cleaning. You will want to tell your Dentist that you are pregnant and typically receiving routine dental care during the second trimester is the safest for the baby. All elective dental procedures should be postponed until after the delivery.
  • Be sure to tell your Dentist the names and dosages of all drugs you are taking, including medications and prenatal vitamins prescribed by your Doctor. Certain drugs – such as tetracycline – can affect the development of your child’s teeth and should not be taken during pregnancy.
  • Avoid dental X-rays during pregnancy, unless it’s an emergency. In an emergency situation, your Dentist will use extreme caution to safeguard you and your baby. Advances in technology have made X-rays much safer today than in past decades.

Dental Care after Pregnancy

  • See your Dentist after your delivery for your regular examination and cleaning. If you have experienced any gum problems or bleeding during your pregnancy, having a thorough exam and periodontal evaluation is the key to continued good oral health.

Diet during Pregnancy

  • Avoid sugary snacks and drinks during pregnancy. These can increase your risk of developing tooth decay, which is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms constantly on teeth. The bacteria convert sugar and starch that remain in the mouth after eating to acid that attacks the tooth enamel. The longer the sugar remains in your mouth, the longer the acids attack. Tooth decay can result after repeated attacks.
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential for good development of the baby’s teeth, gums and bones. Your baby’s first teeth begin to develop about three months into pregnancy. Healthy diets containing dairy products, cheese and yogurt are a good source essential minerals and calcium.

Good daily care is key to your oral health. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque. Floss between your teeth daily as well. Contact your Dentist with questions or concerns regarding your oral health.

How Tobacco Affects your Oral Health

We all know that smoking is bad for your overall health, but did you know that the use of tobacco products can have serious consequences on your oral health too? Tobacco products can have a number of negative health impacts on your oral health including oral cancer, gum disease, discoloration of teeth, and bad breath.

Tobacco affects more than your overall health. It compromises the health of those around you in the form of secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles of more than 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which can cause cancer. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 2.5 million nonsmokers have died from exposure to secondhand smoke since 1964.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 90 percent of people with oral cancer have used tobacco in some form throughout their lives and that the risk of oral cancer is six times higher among smokers relative to non-smokers. People often think that some tobacco products are “safer” than others; however tobacco, whether chewed, smoked or inhaled, has health risks.

In many cases, those people who are at the greatest risk for oral cancer are chronic tobacco users who don’t visit their dentists regularly and by the time oral cancer is detected, it can be difficult to treat. Regular dental visits can help with early detection of gum disease and precancerous mouth sores.   Talk to your dentist about what can help you kick your smoking or chewing habits today.

You are simply a phone call away from stabilizing your oral health. Call RTDental today at (919) 596-7447 to schedule your Comprehensive Oral Evaluation, Oral Cancer Screening and Full Mouth X-Rays to ensure optimal dental health.

Straight Teeth and a Healthy Smile

Benefits of Straight Teeth – Many people think that having straight teeth is for appearance only, but in fact there are several different benefits.

  • Improves Oral Function – Certain bite problems can result in difficulty chewing, difficultly in making certain speech sounds, and my trigger clinching and grinding patters. A poor bite may also contribute to abnormal wear of tooth surfaces, excess stress on supporting bone and gum tissue, or misalignment of the jaw joints which results in chronic headaches or pain in the face and neck.
  • Improves Overall Health – A healthy smile is critical to your lifelong health. Crooked or crowded teeth are difficult to properly clean which can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss.
  • Improves Facial and Smile Appearance – Having a beautiful smile increases self-confidence and self-esteem. Research studies have shown that an attractive smile carries social benefits at all ages and levels of society, while an unattractive smile can be a significant social handicap.

Cost of Orthodontic Treatment – The cost for braces can range from $4,000 for traditional metal braces to upwards of $6,500 for ceramic braces. Invisalign (“clear braces”) is another great option using clear aligners. A series of aligners is used to gradually straighten the teeth. Many cases can achieve dramatic results in as little as 6-12 months. Although orthodontic treatment can be costly, there are several options which can help cover the expense:

  • Dental Insurance – Many dental insurance plans include a benefit to help cover the cost of braces.
  • FSA – Did you know that you can apply your Flexible Spending Account toward Invisalign treatment? Many employers offer this type of an account as a benefit to you.
  • Payment Plans – RTDental offers several different payment plans through Care Credit, including an interest free plan for 6 months!

Time – Many adults think “Orthodontic treatment takes too many trips to the dentist; I can’t fit that into my schedule.” Invisalign treatment however, is usually as easy as a short visit to the dentist every 4-6 weeks. RTDental offers afternoon and Saturday appointments to help accommodate your busy schedule.

Oral Cancer

Cancer that occurs inside or around the mouth is identified as oral cancer. Approximately 1 in 10,000 people will have some form of oral cancer in their lifetimes, and is 3 times more likely in men than women. When detected early, most forms of oral cancer respond well to treatment. Unfortunately, if it remains undetected, oral cancer tends to spread rapidly to other areas of the body.

Oral cancer can develop in any area of the mouth- the lips, gums, and tongue, the lining of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth or the floor of the mouth. Studies have shown that there is an increased risk of developing oral cancer in people who have smoked, used smokeless tobacco products, who have consumed excessive amounts of alcohol, who have had excessive amounts of sun exposure and those who have had a family history of cancer.

Common signs and symptoms of oral cancer may include:

  • Persistent sores that do not heal over time
  • White or reddish patches that develop on the inside of the mouth
  • Lumps, rough spots, or thickening of the skin inside of the mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  • Tongue pain
  • Jaw pain or stiffness
  • Difficulty or painful chewing
  • Difficulty or painful swallowing
  • Feeling that something is caught in your throat

It is important to contact your dentist right away if you notice any of these changes in or around your mouth. However, it is important to note that in early stages most oral cancers have no symptoms and remain undetected unless seen by a dentist. This is one of the many reasons regular dental care is so important!

The doctors and staff at Research Triangle Dental invite you to schedule your Comprehensive Oral Evaluation, Diagnostic X-Rays and oral cancer screening to ensure optimal oral health. Call us today at (919) 596-7447.