Oral Hygiene

Oral hygiene is really important; the term oral hygiene refers to the routine of cleaning the teeth and gums each day in order to maintain high standards of oral health. Oral hygiene can have mental health and social benefits, as well as physical health benefits.

Why is oral hygiene important?

Dental health is much more important than most people think; according to research, a healthy mouth reflects a healthy body, as the mouth can be an indicator of general health. Having good oral hygiene is important for keeping teeth and gums healthy; people who have poor standards of oral hygiene are more likely to suffer with conditions such as gum disease and are also more likely to lose teeth much earlier than those who take good care of their teeth. Losing teeth can have serious implications for both physical and mental health; people who are not happy with their smile are much more likely to suffer from low levels of self-esteem. Missing teeth can also contribute to orthodontic problems, which are usually associated with a person�s bite (the way the upper and lower teeth fit together when the jaw is closed); gaps in the teeth may also cause the cheeks to sag as the cheeks are supported by the teeth.

Symptoms of poor oral health

Poor standards of oral health can contribute to an array of different conditions, including bad breath (halitosis), gum disease, tooth decay, cavities and stained teeth. Poor oral health during pregnancy can also affect the health of the unborn baby; research has confirmed a connection between dental health conditions in the mother and premature and still births.

A good oral hygiene routine

In order to keep teeth and gums healthy it is important to follow a routine of brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist. According to dental experts, teeth should be thoroughly cleaned for at least two minutes twice a day; this includes brushing the teeth and ensuring each tooth is properly cleaned (it is important to get right into the corners of the mouth as these areas can attract plaque and bacteria, which could cause decay). Teeth should also be flossed regularly; this ensures the bacteria that cannot be reached using a brush is removed; floss should be passed through the gaps between the teeth and along the gum lines. Some dentists also recommend using a mouthwash to rinse the mouth and remove any last traces of bacteria; mouthwash also helps to ensure that breath is fresh. Visiting the dentist regularly is a lot more important than people realise; during a check-up the dentist can assess the condition of the teeth and gums as well as identifying early signs of dental health conditions; in some cases, this early identification could be life-saving. Patients who are diagnosed with oral cancer in the early stages have a much higher chance of survival (up to 90% higher), for example.

Which toothbrush and toothpaste should I use?

Dentists generally recommend that adults use a medium sized brush with fairly soft bristles; having a smaller head enables the brush to reach the far corners of the mouth, which will improve oral hygiene. Electric toothbrushes have been proven to remove more plaque and are therefore beneficial in most cases; it is best to ask your dentist for advice regarding which toothbrush will be best for your individual needs. In terms of toothpaste, dental experts recommend using fluoride-based toothpaste; this helps to strengthen the enamel on the surface of the teeth and protect against decay and cavities.

Diet and dental health

Diet can play a huge part in determining standards of dental health; the foods and drinks we consume can have a massive impact on our teeth so it is important to know which foods to enjoy regularly and which to limit. It is really important to eat a balanced and healthy diet; this includes eating lots of fruit and vegetables, starchy carbohydrates, proteins and fats. By controlling the quantities of certain foods, the body is able to get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients it needs to function properly. In terms of dental health, fruits and vegetables and calcium-rich foods and drinks are packed with goodness. Calcium helps to strengthen the teeth and bones, while the fibre contained in fruits and vegetables increases the production of saliva in the mouth; this neutralises acids and prevents damage to the enamel on the teeth.

Sugary, acidic foods can be harmful to dental health as they soften the enamel surfaces of the teeth; over time, the enamel will wear down, which will cause the softer dentin portion of the tooth to become exposed; this can cause heightened sensitivity and pain. Foods that stick to the teeth, such as toffee, may also be detrimental to dental health; these foods are harder to wash away and consequently the tooth can become damaged by the acid and sugar contained in the food. Hard foods can cause damage to the teeth and should not be eaten frequently; examples of this type of food include hard sweets.

Some foods and drinks can cause the teeth to become discoloured; examples of these foods and drinks include red wine, coffee and tea. Over time the tooth becomes darker and the teeth can appear much more yellow or brown than white.

Preventive dentistry

Preventive dentistry is a means of promoting oral hygiene in order to reduce the need for treatment in the future. Examples of preventive dentistry include educational initiatives, screening programmes, preventive treatments and routine check-ups. Preventive dentistry involves laying foundations to prevent illness, rather than waiting until the illness develops and then treating it.

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