Ward off Gum Disease with a Few Simple Oral Hygiene Basics

From a young age, the importance of exercising good oral hygiene is drilled into our brains. During youth, the ideas of brushing and flossing regularly become monotonous, but later on in life, their true value tends to be a good bit more evident. Once teeth and gums start to degrade, there’s no going back in time, so all those dental hygiene lessons from childhood are actually lifelong tutorials worthy of being taken to heart.

From preventative at-home maintenance to routine visits to the periodontist, taking care of your teeth and gums helps promote not only oral health, but overall well-being.

Brush Those Teeth

Yes, it’s painfully repetitious, yet it’s one of the most vital concepts to be carried with you for a lifetime. Bacteria and residue from foods, beverages, nicotine and other substances gather on your teeth throughout the day. Overnight, the same issue arises. If you don’t remove this film promptly, it’ll transform into a sticky material known as plaque and eventually harden to become tartar.

Either way, leaving bacteria and food-based scum to their own devices leads to tooth decay and bad breath. Over time, it’ll also cause periodontal disease. The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth at least twice each day, once in the morning and once before going to bed. If you can manage brushing more often, it wouldn’t do any harm.

Choosing the Right Toothbrush

Finding a decent toothbrush might seem like a simple feat until you find yourself in the oral hygiene aisle. Dozens of options are available in a wide range of shapes, sizes, colors, head angles, bristle configurations and other variations. Which one is best? Well, there’s no straightforward answer here.

  • Bristle Stiffness: For the most part, toothbrushes come with soft, medium or stiff bristles. Some look to soft versions since they’re easier on the gums. Others go for stiff bristles because they feel like those provide a better cleaning experience. Let your own preferences be your guide here; whichever one feels best to you is perfectly acceptable. Keep in mind, though, if you choose stiff bristles, it’s important to be gentle near the gumline.
  • Configuration: Configuration is one of the most confusing points to consider when looking for a new toothbrush. You’ll find angled heads with beveled top bristles, crisscrossed outer bristles with recessed inner ones and endless combinations in between. Of course, the standard flat models are also readily available. In this department, the best option is the one most fitted to your mouth. Some people can easily get to the back teeth and interior surfaces with the basic norm whereas others need those extra angles for optimum reach. Involving every surface of every tooth in its entirety in the brushing process is the goal here, so choose the one that gives you this level of coverage.
  • Powered or Manual: Human-powered toothbrushes are easily capable of providing an adequate level of clean as long as you take your time and use the right technique. On the other hand, battery-powered versions sometimes require a little less effort. For kids, the latter tends to be a lot more fun to use. According to the Journal of the American Dental Association, both can be equally effective in removing plaque and promoting fresh breath, so once again, it’s mainly a matter of preference.

Don’t hesitate to take several different toothbrush models for a test drive before settling on the one best suited to your mouth size and shape as well as your dexterity. Be sure to change out roughly every three months because bristles tend to become frayed and hold onto bacteria over time. While brushing regularly with a suitable toothbrush can help thwart periodontal disease, it’s not the only factor in oral health.

Proper Technique

Some experts insist using left-to-right motions is the proper way to brush whereas others argue for the up-and-down approach. Small, tight circular motions also have their fair share of followers. Overall, the approach itself isn’t as significant as covering the entire tooth. Use the approach, or combination of them, that works best for you.

Floss Regularly

Despite being another of those recurring messages we hear all our lives, flossing is also a highly neglected member of the oral hygiene family. For some, the time and effort involved is just too much to fit into a busy lifestyle. Others simply grow tired of fighting with fine pieces of thread to little avail.

Setting the Stage

Proper flossing requires a certain technique. Start off by pulling about 18 inches of floss from its container. Wrap the majority of this length around your middle fingers, leaving a couple inches in the middle to begin the process. From there, hold this short expanse of floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, and choose a starting point.

Digging in

Slide the floss gently between your teeth, working your way back and forth. Be sure to curve the floss slightly around your teeth to fully remove plaque from the spaces the toothbrush just can’t reach. Don’t overlook the areas just below the gumline, but be gentle to avoid causing bleeding and soreness.

As you move from one tooth to the next, all the length wrapped around your fingers will come back into play. Unravel a little more after finishing each tooth, so you’ll continually have a clean stretch of floss to use.

Finding the Perfect Floss

Though the arguments for or against flavored, unflavored, waxed and unwaxed varieties is an ongoing one, the configuration of the floss is the more important factor here. Traditional threadlike floss is a nice choice for teeth with minimal gaps and can be used with braces. Larger gaps sometimes need thicker braided varieties.

If your teeth are extremely close together, conventional options pose a bit of a challenge. They’re difficult to slide between the teeth and have a way of leaving behind tiny pieces of string, which almost defeats the purpose of flossing in the first place. Consider trying monofilament floss as it’s easier to slide into place without those notorious gum-cutting sudden slips. It’s also shred-resistant, so it stays intact during use.

Feed Your Teeth

When it comes to promoting any aspect of well-being, the significance of a healthy diet can’t be stressed enough. Calcium is crucial to healthy teeth and bones, and vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, so both need to be part of your daily routine along with all the other essential nutrients.

How much calcium you need depends on your age and gender among other factors. Children ages three and under should take in about 700 milligrams each day while those between the ages of four and eight need 1,000. From nine to 18 years of age, the required daily amount jumps to 1,300 milligrams. Women up to 50 years old and men who are 70 or younger should consume 1,000 milligrams each day with that amount ramping up to 1,200 beyond those ages.

While milk, cheese and yogurt are well-known sources of calcium, they’re not the only ones. Other foods rich in this mineral include canned salmon, sardines, almonds, white beans, collards, kale and chia seeds. If you can’t seem to reach your required daily allotment of calcium through milk and foods alone, over-the-counter supplements are certainly at your disposal. Just pay close attention to the labels to be sure you’re getting enough.

Bottom Line

Each of these measures probably seems ridiculously obvious on the surface, but there’s more to all of them than meets the eye. Simply brushing and flossing isn’t enough to stave off periodontal disease. Specific strategies are involved; without proper technique, those steps aren’t nearly as effective as they could be. On top of it all, giving your teeth and gums the nutrition they need to remain strong and healthy is just as important as cleaning off the residue left behind after meals.

At Gulfside Periodontics, we go well beyond the basics to help our friends and neighbors in Ocean Springs, MS take care of their teeth and gums to prevent periodontal disease or slow its progression. Feel free to contact us for a consultation, and let us show you what sets us apart from the rest.