The mouth is the gateway to the body. What we eat and drink goes through the mouth and into our digestive system. Therefore, the health of our mouths (oral health) is essential for our overall health and well-being.
Good oral health means:
- Having healthy teeth and gums
- Being able to chew and speak properly
- Having fresh breath
- Feeling confident about our smiles
Poor oral condition has been linked to several severe health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Maintaining good oral hygiene is not just about brushing, flossing, or having a beautiful smile. It’s about saving your teeth, gums and other mouth parts from various diseases so you can speak, eat, and smile without discomfort. A key to excellent oral health can be found in this comprehensive guide. Find out how to keep your smile healthy and sparkling.
1. Causes of Dental and Oral Diseases
The most common cause of dental and oral diseases is poor oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing regularly remove food particles and plaque, preventing ties and gum disease.
Poor diet can also contribute to dental issues, as a diet high in sugars and starches leads to an increase in plaque buildup. Other common causes include:
Bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colourless film that constantly forms on your teeth) produce toxins or poisons that can inflame the gums and cause gum disease.
Tobacco use increases your risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and oral cancer. Smoking also contributes to bad breath.
- Poor nutrition. A diet lacking vitamins and minerals can lead to periodontal disease and other dental problems.
- Grinding or clenching your teeth (bruxism). This can damage tooth enamel and make your teeth more sensitive to hot or cold foods and beverages. It may also contribute to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ).
- Certain medical conditions. These include diabetes, HIV/AIDS, leukemia, and eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. People with these conditions are more susceptible to infection and may have difficulty fighting off bacteria that invade the gums.
- Genetics. Some people are at a higher risk of getting gum disease and other dental problems due to their genes.
2. Most Common Dental Problems
Dental caries or cavities
Dental cavities occur due to plaque formation on the teeth. The bacteria in plaque release acids that damage the tooth enamel and, over time, create a hole. Cavities, if left untreated for long, may lead to severe discomfort, pain, and tooth sensitivity. If the cavity goes deep, there may be a need for tooth extraction or root canal therapy.
According to the Australian Dental Association (ADA), dental caries or cavities are one of the most common dental problems faced by over 90% of Australian adults at some point in their lives.
Periodontitis or gum disease
Periodontitis is inflammation of the bone and dental tissue caused by bacteria. Also known as gum disease, this problem may affect connective tissue (the gum and ligaments) and the bone supporting the tooth. It occurs when a gap is created between a tooth and the surrounding gum. In severe cases, there’s extensive loss of tissue and bone, leading to tooth loss.
Older people experience advanced forms of gum disease, mainly because health issues like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease increase the severity of the disease.
Toothache and jaw pain
Toothache is another common dental issue. Pain in and around the teeth and jaws is referred to as toothache. If left untreated, it may cause dental caries or dental decay. A toothache may also occur due to other issues like receding gums, cracked teeth, loose or broken fillings, etc.
Identifying the underlying cause and providing the proper treatment to subside a toothache is essential. A severe toothache can affect daily activities like eating and sleeping and make the patient completely avoid certain foods and social situations.
Stained and discoloured teeth
Another common dental problem affecting adults is tooth discolouration, caused by stains on the surface of a tooth. There are three types of discolouration, namely extrinsic, intrinsic, and discolouration due to ageing.
- Extrinsic discolouration: the outer layer of a tooth is stained due to excessive smoking or consumption of wine, coffee, and tea.
- Intrinsic discolouration: the tooth’s inner structure darkens or turns yellow. This may happen due to issues like tooth trauma.
- Discolour may occur due to extrinsic and intrinsic factors.
Bruxism or teeth grinding
Bruxism is the medical term for grinding your teeth. When people have bruxism, they unconsciously clench their teeth while awake (awake bruxism) or clench when sleeping (sleep bruxism).
Sleep bruxism is a sleep-related movement disorder. People who grind their teeth during sleep may also suffer from other sleep disorders, such as snoring and pauses in breathing (sleep apnea).
Bruxism can cause other health issues like headaches, tooth sensitivity, aching teeth, jaw and ear pain, and more. Also, if ignored for a long, bruxism may lead to dental problems like tooth decay, cracked tooth enamel, broken fillings and damage to existing crowns.
In some cases, bruxism demands dental repair work and the need to wear a special mouth guard to safeguard the teeth.
Crooked or misaligned teeth
Dental problems like gapped, crooked, misaligned or overcrowded teeth may lead to eating difficulties and jaw pain. Orthodontic procedures can be performed on children and adults to help them deal with these issues. In addition, treatment options like traditional metal braces and Invisalign are commonly used by many to fix crooked teeth problems.
3. Diagnosing Dental & Oral Diseases
Your dentist or dental hygienist can diagnose dental and oral diseases by examining your mouth and looking for signs of trouble. They may also use X-rays to look for problems that cannot be seen with the naked eye. If you have any symptoms, your dentist may also order tests to find out what is causing them.
4. Treating Dental & Oral Diseases
The treatment of dental and oral diseases will depend on the specific problem that you are having. However, here are the treatments for some common dental issues:
Dental caries or cavities: Cavities are treated by removing the decayed portion of the tooth with a drill and then filling the resulting hole with a bonding material.
Gum disease: Gum disease is treated by scaling and root planing, which involves cleaning the teeth and gums to remove plaque and tartar. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the problem.
Tooth loss: Tooth loss can be treated by dental implants, which involve inserting a metal post into the jawbone to act as a replacement for the missing tooth. Alternatively, dentures or bridges can replace one or more missing teeth.
Bad breath: Bad breath is often caused by poor oral hygiene and can be treated by brushing and flossing regularly. In some cases, your dentist may recommend using a specific mouthwash to deal with the issue. Bad breath may also be caused by a medical condition and require treatment from a doctor.
5. Prevention: Oral Hygiene Best Practices
Good oral hygiene can safeguard your teeth and gums from decay and damage and give you a beautiful smile. Here’s what you must do to maintain your oral hygiene and keep your smile healthy:
- Brush your teeth at least two times a day. It is recommended to use fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush to brush your teeth without causing any damage to your gums and tooth enamel (like in the case of medium or hard-bristled toothbrushes). While brushing, you must place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward your gums to remove plaque and bacteria from the gum line. In addition, ensure to brush all corners of your mouth, including the back and side teeth.
- Floss once daily – Flossing is essential to oral hygiene, as it helps remove plaque and food particles from teeth and gums. It’s important to floss at least once a day and more if you have braces or other dental appliances. There are two main ways to floss: string floss or water floss. String floss is the most common type and comes in waxed and unwaxed varieties. Water floss is newer but just as effective as string floss. This method uses a stream of water to clean between teeth. How to floss? To use string floss, start by wrapping the end around your middle finger. Then, hold the floss tight against your teeth and use a back-and-forth motion to clean the sides of each tooth. Be sure to go all the way down to the gum line. When you’re finished, unroll a fresh section of floss and repeat the process. To use water floss, fill the reservoir of your water flosser with warm water. Then, hold the tip against your teeth and gums and use a back-and-forth motion to clean. Some water flossers have different tips for different needs, such as plaque removal or braces cleaning. Whichever type of floss you use, be sure to be gentle, so you don’t damage your gums.
- Brush your tongue. Bacteria sit on your tongue, too, so brushing your tongue every time you brush your teeth is essential. You can use your soft-bristle toothbrush for cleaning your tongue or invest in a tongue scraper too.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash daily. Antibacterial mouthwash can remove harmful oral bacteria from your mouth. They also wash away food and debris and minimise plaque build-up. To avoid drying your mouth, use an alcohol-free mouthwash.
- Visit your dentist or dental hygienist regularly. Routine dental check-ups and cleanings are the most important for your oral health. It is best to visit your dentist once every six months. However, if you’re prone to cavities or gum diseases, you may have to visit your dentist more often.
- Avoid tobacco products. Smoking leads to various oral health issues like gum disease and oral cancer. Therefore, it’s best to refrain from using these products altogether.
Consistently following a good oral hygiene routine is essential for your mouth. These are the basic steps you must carry out to keep plaque and bacteria at bay. However, speak to your dental hygienist if you require a personalised oral health regimen to meet specific needs.
6. What Is a Dental Hygienist?
Dental clinic hygienists carry out common procedures like teeth cleaning, scraping, and polishing. They are highly trained in dental hygiene and know everything about cleaning your mouth.
A dental hygienist is different from a dentist, a professional who is skilled and trained to repair and restore the function of your teeth.
Your dental hygienist can remove plaque and tartar build-up from the teeth’ surface to minimise the chances of teeth staining and discolouration also guide you on ways to clean your teeth efficiently.
Dental hygienists also use fluoride treatments and sealants to protect vulnerable teeth from decay. Hygienists earlier wouldn’t carry out diagnostic procedures like dental x-rays, but these days, many of them are trained to do this as well.
7. Why Should You See a Dental Hygienist?
Your dental hygienist is an important part of your dental care team. They are the professionals who clean your teeth and help to prevent gum disease. Seeing a dental hygienist regularly is essential for maintaining good oral health.
Maintaining oral hygiene is vital to avoid issues with your mouth that can have far-reaching consequences. For example, persistent decay and dental erosion can weaken your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to illness. Also, healthy teeth give you the confidence to smile freely. So, the better you maintain your teeth with the help of a dental hygienist or dentist, the more confident you can be with your smile.
8. Are Dental Hygiene Treatments Painful?
Not at all! Modern dental hygiene treatments are designed to be as comfortable as possible. Most people report that they feel relaxed and even pampered during their appointments! If your dental hygienist carries out treatments like scaling and polishing, you may feel weird about someone touching your teeth in this manner. However, at no, point you will experience any pain.
During your first dental hygiene appointment, your hygienist will ask you about your medical history and any medications you are currently taking. This information is essential to provide you with the best possible care.
Next, your hygienist will examine your mouth for any signs of disease or other problems. This examination includes a visual inspection of your teeth and gums and gently probing of your gum tissue with a small instrument.
Once the examination is done, your hygienist will begin the cleaning process:
- They will use a special instrument to remove any plaque or tartar (hardened dental plaque deposits) from your teeth.
- They will floss your teeth and rinse your mouth with a special solution.
- our teeth will be polished with a slightly abrasive paste.
The appointment will take about 60 minutes, and you should expect to feel refreshed and have a bright, clean smile when it’s all over!
9. Schedule an appointment with us
We all know how important oral hygiene is. It’s something we’ve been taught since we were young. But despite this, many of us still don’t take proper care of our teeth and gums. As a result, we end up with cavities, gum disease, and other dental problems.
That’s why seeing a dentist or dental hygienist is so important.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Without good oral hygiene, plaque – a sticky film of bacteria – builds up on teeth and gums. The bacteria in plaque produce acids that can damage teeth and gums. In addition, if plaque is not removed regularly by brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar (calculus).
A dentist or dental hygienist can only remove tartar. The combination of plaque and tartar can cause cavities, tooth decay, gum disease, and bone loss around teeth. All of these problems can lead to tooth loss. Moreover, research has linked poor oral health with other health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
That’s why it’s essential to practice good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing your teeth regularly. You should also regularly see your dentist or dental hygienist for professional cleanings and check-ups.
The correct way to brush your teeth depends on your dental health. If you have healthy teeth and gums, it’s best to brush your teeth with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste (or less) for two minutes at a time, using a circular motion. It would help if you also flossed once a day.
If you have unhealthy teeth and gums or are overdue for a dental cleaning and exam, it’s best to consult your dentist about the best way to brush your teeth. In few cases, it may be necessary to use a special toothbrush called a power toothbrush or an ultrasonic toothbrush to remove built-up plaque and tartar.
And in some cases, it may be required to use medicated toothpaste or mouth rinse as well. Whether you use a regular toothbrush or an ultrasonic one, always remember to brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time, using circular motions. And don’t forget to floss daily!
Flossing is a must in your oral care routine because it helps remove plaque and food debris between the teeth, a space your toothbrush cannot reach. Plaque is a sticky film
of bacteria that forms on the teeth and gums, and if it is not removed, it can lead to cavities and gum disease.
Flossing also stimulates the gums, which helps to keep them healthy. When you floss, use a gentle back-and-forth motion rather than sawing the floss back and forth, as this can damage the gums. Be sure to use clean sections of floss as you progress from tooth to tooth.
It is recommended to floss at least once a day and more frequently if you eat foods likely to cause plaque build-up, such as sugary or starchy snacks. In addition, if you have braces or other dental appliances, you may need to floss more often to ensure that your teeth and gums stay healthy.
Diet is an essential part of dental hygiene. Cavities and tooth decay are caused by bacteria that feed on sugars in the mouth. The more sugar you eat, the more bacteria will grow and the greater your risk for cavities and tooth decay. Restorative dentistry, such as fillings and crowns, can help repair damage from cavities and tooth decay.
Still, it’s much easier to prevent cavities and tooth decay in the first place by eating a healthy diet low in sugar. It is best to include a variety of foods from all the food groups in your diet. Apart from eating a healthy diet, it would help if you brushed your teeth at least two times a day and floss once daily to remove plaque from your teeth and gums.
Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that appears on your teeth and gums and can cause cavities and gum disease if it’s not removed. If you have any questions about how diet affects dental hygiene or if you need help in picking the right dental products for your oral health, speak to your dentist.
The best foods for healthy teeth are those low in sugar and aren’t acidic. Acidic foods and drinks can erode teeth enamel over time, leading to tooth decay and other dental problems. Some good food choices for keeping your teeth healthy include apples, carrots, celery, cheese, cucumbers, and strawberries. These foods are all low in sugar and acidic content and provide essential nutrients that help keep your teeth strong and healthy. Additionally, you should avoid drinking too many sugary drinks like sodas and fruit juices. Instead, drink plenty of water to help keep your mouth clean and hydrated. Apart from eating healthy foods, it is also essential to practice good oral hygiene habits. This includes brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash regularly. These habits will help remove plaque and bacteria from your teeth and gums, reducing your risk for tooth decay and gum disease.