Family Dentistry Hygiene & Oral Maintenance Procedures
- Routine dental cleaning (prophylaxis)
- Scaling & root planning
- Periodontal maintenance
Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping the mouth clean and healthy by brushing, flossing, and using appropriate therapeutic aids to prevent caries (tooth decay) and periodontal disease.
The goal of proper oral hygiene is to control plaque, the sticky bacterial film that continually forms on teeth. Plaque adheres to the crevices and fissures of teeth and, when not removed on a regular basis, generates acids that can decay the enamel surface of teeth. Plaque is also a physical and a chemical irritant to the periodontium, the tissues investing and supporting the teeth.
Toothbrushing and flossing remove plaque from teeth, and antiseptic mouthwashes kill some of the bacteria in plaque. Fluoride-in toothpaste, drinking water, or dental treatments-also protects teeth by binding with enamel to make it stronger. Despite a patient’s best efforts, plaque formation can lead to calculus formation. Calculus, also called tartar, is an adherent, calcified deposit made up of dead bacterial cells from plaque. Calculus does not cause tooth decay, but is a primary cause of periodontal disease.
Calculus can only be removed by a dental professional, therefore regular dental visits are essential to good oral hygiene.
Brushing should be performed thoroughly and gently with the correct brush, refraining from “scrubbing” at the teeth with too much force. Brushing that is unnecessarily vigorous can cause gum irritation, gum recession, and abrasion of tooth structure. Flossing can also be performed too vigorously. A patient who inserts floss between teeth, then “saws” back and forth with downward force can create fissures in gum tissue that destroy the attachment of gum to tooth.
As deciduous (primary) teeth erupt, caregivers should develop the habit of brushing children’s teeth after every meal. Since excess ingested fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, a mottled discoloration of tooth enamel, care should be taken that the child does not swallow any toothpaste. A pea-size amount of fluoridated toothpaste is all that is necessary to clean a child’s teeth. Fluoride-free toothpaste for children is available.
Patients with full or partial prostheses are not exempt from the need for good oral hygiene. Dentures should be removed daily, cleaned with a brush and rinsed or soaked in a denture cleansing bath. Gum tissue should be brushed and rinsed to remove food particles and bacteria. If possible, dentures should be left out at night to allow the tissues to breathe without pressure from the prosthesis. When not in use, dentures should be covered with water or a denture cleaning solution to prevent drying. Dentures should be adjusted, relined, and replaced when necessary by a dentist.