What is Oral Hygiene
Oral Hygiene includes a group of processes used for the removal of dental microbial plaque from our teeth and maintaining a healthy mouth environment, that prevents the development of dental health problems affecting teeth, gums or other tissues of the oral cavity. Good oral hygiene, proper diet and regular visits to a dentist are the key factors for good oral health.
The Risks of Poor Oral Hygiene
The primary goal of any dental hygiene routine is the prevention of the oral health problems caused by the build-up of microbial plaque. Poor oral hygiene allows the continuous accumulation of acid producing bacteria on the surface of the teeth that demineralize the tooth enamel causing tooth decay (cavities) and irritate or infect the gums causing causing gum disease and periodontitis.
Both conditions increase the risk of losing one or more teeth. If we exclude tooth injuries, in almost all other cases involving tooth loss, the causative factor is the lack of proper daily oral hygiene.
Except tooth decay and gum disease, many other dental health problems, such as oral thrush, trench mouth, bad breath and others are a side effect of poor dental hygiene. Dental conditions as tooth abscess and periodontitis have been linked with serious general health problems such as heart attacks and strokes.
How Important is Good Oral Hygiene
Prevention is always better than treatment. Most dental problems can be avoided with a proper oral hygiene routine. The modern dietary patterns with fast food and soft drinks have increased the risks for oral health. By dedicating only some minutes every day to dental hygiene care we can save ourselves from toothaches and costly dental treatments. Unfortunately, most of the patients remember the importance of dental hygiene only after a painful and expensive dental treatment (but even then, it doesn't last long).
Healthy teeth are necessary for our overall well-being, allowing us to eat properly, speak clearly, look and feel good. It is important to understand that brushing and flossing teeth must become a habit that will follow us for all our life.
Oral Hygiene Methods
In recent years the awareness of the importance of healthy hygiene habits has increased significantly and a large variety of oral health products have become widely available. Your dentist can help you choose the most suitable products for your needs and educate you on how to use them properly for your daily preventive oral care. The main methods for good oral hygiene are:
Regular brushing of teeth is essential for maintaining good oral hygiene. Mechanical removal of dental plaque with the use of a toothbrush is the most effective method of cleaning the teeth from bacteria and food residuals. Electric toothbrushes can make this task easier.
The toothpaste helps in washing away bacteria and food, but also provides additional ingredients such as fluoride and antimicrobial agents to strengthen teeth and enhance their protection. Our toothbrush must be changed regularly, so that it is always in good condition. We must also know how to use our toothbrush properly. How and for how long we brush our teeth are critical factors for the effectiveness of teeth cleaning.
The use of dental floss is important for the cleaning of the areas between teeth (interdental cleaning) and under the gum line. These are areas where the toothbrush bristles can't reach and clean. For this reason we have to floss our teeth at least once a day in addition to toothbrushing.
Other Interdental Cleaning Tools
In addition to dental floss we can use other interdental cleaning tools such as small interdental brushes or devices like WaterPik. These are especially useful for patients with dental bridges, tooth implants or dental braces.
Mouthwashes or mouthrinses can be used complementary of brushing and flossing. Although their most common use is for freshening the breath, some contain fluoride and antimicrobial agents to increase teeth protection. In any case, it must be clear that the use of mouthwashes can NOT substitute regular brushing and flossing of teeth.
Basic Oral Hygiene Tips
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day
- Learn how to to brush teeth properly. Brush for at least 2 minutes.
- Use a medium or soft toothbrush. Change it every 3 months.
- Choose toothpastes and mouthwashes that contain fluoride.
- Use dental floss at least once a day.
- Use interdental cleaning tools (especially if you have bridges, implants or braces).
- Avoid foods that cause tooth decay. Sugary and acidic foods and drinks can damage your teeth. Watch your diet and prefer healthy foods for teeth.
- Do not forget to visit your dentist for professional teeth cleaning every 6 months.
Daily oral hygiene is essential for maintaining oral health. It should also be combined with proper healthy diet and regular dental visits.