Oral hygiene refers to the various procedures done to keep one's mouth clean and disease-free. Basically, it includes regular brushing and flossing between the teeth in addition to regular inspection and cleaning by a dentist.
Importance of oral hygiene to a person’s overall health
Oral hygiene is necessary not only to fight tooth decay and bad breath but more importantly for a person’s overall health. Poor oral hygiene provides a friendly environment for harmful bacteria to multiply. From the mouth, harmful bacteria can spread through the blood stream to different parts of the body. So, in addition to dental problems, you are in danger of developing other diseases.
Maintaining oral hygiene between dental visits every six months is very important for dental health. Following are some pieces of advice on proper oral hygiene at home for all ages - infants to adults.
Oral Hygiene Advice for Infants and Toddlers
- Oral hygiene must start soon after birth. Clean the baby's gums (upper and lower) using a clean, damp cloth at least two times daily- after the first and the last feeding.
- Once a tooth has erupted, brush it with the appropriate toothbrush and rinse with water. Ask your dentist but toothpaste is usually not recommended until the child is two years old. There are special children’s toothpaste available, which have lower grades of fluoride. Ideally start flossing at least once daily when two baby teeth have erupted side by side.
- The first dental visit should be ideally before the child turns one-year old and every six to twelve months thereafter.
- You should encourage kids try and brush their teeth themselves (with your assistance) as early as possible. But you should teach kids how to ‘properly’ brush and floss when they are 6 years old or as soon as they have the required coordination skills. However, they should be supervised until you are sure they can do them right.
- Ask your dentist to help you determine if your child is ready to use mouthwash. Ask also for the most suitable and safest mouthwash for children. Supervise your child’s initial use of mouthwash until you are confident of his or her capability to do it right.
Oral Hygiene Advice for Teens to Adults
Proper and regular brushing is a must to remove plaque and prevent its build up. Plaque leads to gum disease and tooth decay.
How often should you brush your teeth? Dentists advise brushing at least two times daily and after meals. The foods we eat and drink usually contain sugars and carbohydrates that combine with the existing bacteria in your mouth to produce acids. Acid attacks your teeth which could lead to tooth decay. Cleaning your teeth after eating reduces the possibility of dental cavities.
Make sure to clean your tongue by brushing or scraping to remove bacteria- one of the causes of bad breath. Brushing or scraping with a tongue scraper also removes whatever odor-causing substances have been deposited on your tongue.
Ask your dentist for the type of toothbrush and toothpaste in your locality that will benefit you most. Seniors or those with mobility issues may consider using an electric toothbrush to make sure they comply with the recommended brush movement and brushing time.
Interdental cleaning is the process of cleaning between teeth. Interdental cleaning is important because a toothbrush can clean only the front and back surfaces but it can’t brush between the teeth. Some food particles are trapped between teeth and can’t be removed by brushing. The common tools for interdental cleaning are interdental brushes and floss.
Learn how to floss properly and do it at least once daily. To clean between teeth, hold the ends with each hand and rub it up and down the sides of each tooth. Let it go under the gum line to remove any hidden plaque. For best results use a fresh cut of floss for every location so you don’t transfer bacteria or food particles to another interdental location.
Floss before brushing and rinse with a mouthwash.
Interdental brushes are available in various sizes. If you don’t know how to choose the best type for you, ask your hygienist or dentist for their recommendations.
Toothbrush bristles wear over time. They become frayed or are flattened, reducing their effectiveness in scrubbing your teeth clean. To keep on using a “good” toothbrush, get a new manual toothbrush after using it for three to four months. If you are using an electric toothbrush, refer to the manufacturer’s advice. The worn out bristles of your old toothbrush may also damage your gums.
Antibacterial mouthwashes can help remove bacteria that cause the formation of dental plaque. Use mouthwash to prevent gingivitis which leads to gum disease. Fluoride in mouthwash also helps in strengthening teeth and preventing tooth decay.
How to Clean Dentures
Dentures will not decay but they should also be kept clean to maintain oral hygiene. Food trapped in dentures can rot, increase harmful bacteria in your mouth and cause bad breath and other oral diseases.
If you still have natural teeth, use a separate toothbrush to clean your dentures. The general denture cleaning procedure is: brush, soak in a bowl of water and brush again.
Brush your dentures in the same manner you brush natural teeth. Make sure to clean all surfaces. Any scales or stains build up should be cleaned by the appropriate dental practitioner.
How to clean implants
Ask your dentist or dental hygienist for the proper way to clean your implants. Proper cleaning is important to avoid possible infection and gum disease.
What will happen if you don't observe proper oral hygiene as recommended? Bad breath could be the least of your problems. Cavities and toothache are the most likely consequences of having poor oral hygiene. Think also of more serious illnesses that could develop from the harmful bacteria that enter your body through your mouth.
Proper oral hygiene does require time and effort but the alternative of bad teeth, tooth ache or loss and/or expensive dental bills typically far outweigh this! Once you get used to a daily oral hygiene routine, you’ll find it easy. You’ll feel confident that you’re not offending other people with your bad breath and realize that it’s easier to hold your smile because you’re not embarrassed about your teeth!