As dental professionals, we at Bunker Hill Dentistry are proud to be able to provide you with top-notch dental care when you’re in our office. However, 99% of the time, we won’t be there to oversee your oral care; that means your oral hygiene is up to you. Read on for all the info you need to protect the health of your teeth, prevent costly repairs and procedures, and keep your smile looking amazing. What Does Proper Dental Care Prevent? Cavities The tiny holes in a tooth’s surface created by bacteria can be prevented by responsible care. Some people’s genetics make them more predisposed to getting cavities, or carries, than others, making proper dental care even more important for them. Gum Disease Gum disease begins with the early stages of gingivitis, where red and swollen gums bleed easily from brushing. If the situation is not corrected, gingivitis progresses to the irreversible periodontitis, in which gum tissue and bone are destroyed. This can lead to teeth becoming loose and eventually falling out. Tooth Sensitivity Although tooth sensitivity can be caused by things out of your control, such as physical injury, it can also be caused by gum disease, which causes the gums to recede and expose the dentin layer of the tooth. Consuming too many acidic foods and drinks can also cause it, but a word of warning: over aggressive brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush can cause sensitivity, as well. Tooth Erosion Speaking of acidic foods, they can also cause the protective enamel of your teeth to wear away. This is a permanent situation that can make brushing and consuming hot, cold, or even sweet foods painful. Non-Oral Illnesses We now know that poor oral health can contribute to disease in various places throughout your body in those with weakened immune systems, including endocarditis in the inner lining of the heart chambers or valves, pneumonia via bacteria from the mouth entering the lungs, and even preterm delivery. What Does Good Dental Care Do? The primary benefit of sound oral care is the removal of plaque, the thin film that builds up on teeth and contains millions of bacteria, which in turn cause the gum disease and other factors we’ve already laid out. Plaque that isn’t removed hardens into tartar, also called dental calculus, which is difficult to treat without professional help. Of course, clean teeth make for a much more attractive mouth. It can help teeth stay white, prevent bad breath, help you keep your natural teeth, and even (as we’ve seen) help you avoid various illnesses. Broadly speaking, healthy teeth may help you land certain jobs, make certain acquaintances, be able to enjoy more foods, and just generally enjoy your life more fully. 5 Key Practices to Healthy Teeth & Gums #1: Brushing We all know it’s true, but it bears repeating: brushing at least twice a day is the foundation of oral care. Beyond that, though, it’s important to remember some key brushing points: Brush gently, in circular motions, for two minutes. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, ideally an electric model, as they’ve been proven to remove plaque more effectively than manual brushes. Use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride protects against the breakdown of enamel, which can cause cavities. Don’t neglect to brush your tongue, as well. As well as teeth and gums, the tongue is also a prominent host for bacteria. This bacteria can find its way onto teeth or gums or cause halitosis, otherwise known as bad breath. #2: Flossing Flossing after every meal can sometimes cause tender gums, so aim to do it once a day. Proper technique is to wrap several inches of floss around each finger and work it gently up and down and around each tooth in a “C” shape. Floss sticks are better than nothing but not as effective as floss. #3: Checkups There’s no substitute for routine checkups by a professional. You should be visiting the dentist at least twice per year, more often if your insurance covers it. The dentist has both the tools and training to get your teeth cleaner than you can at home. Your dentist’s trained eye can also catch potential problems in their infancy and help you address them before they become painful and/or expensive issues. #4: Diet Eating a healthy diet has the happy benefit of helping your teeth, too. Limiting your intake of sugary foods reduces your risk of eroding your enamel and developing cavities. Drinking water after meals can help rinse the mouth of acidic foods and dilute the negative effects on the teeth. And crunchy vegetables such as celery and carrots stimulate saliva flow, which is a natural defense against cavities and gum disease. (This is why it’s best to wait an hour after eating before brushing, to give your saliva a chance to clear out acids naturally.) #5: Habits Specifically, avoid the bad habits and develop the good ones. For example, chewing on non-food items such as pens…bad. You could damage your teeth or pick up germs by doing so. But buying products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance…that’s a good habit. These 200+ dental products are demonstrated safe and effective according to ADA standards. For some surprising dental tips you haven’t heard before, check out our blog post. Caring for Dental Restorations and Appliances Sound oral care involves maintaining everything in your mouth…even if it’s removable or didn’t grow there naturally. Here’s how to keep your dental appliances and implants in top shape: Invisalign The manufacturer advises wearers to rinse aligners each night and brush them gently with a toothbrush to keep them fresh. You can purchase an Invisalign cleaning system with cleaning crystals that remove plaque through agitation once activated by water, or simply soak the aligners in generic retainer cleaner for 10-15 minutes. Just don’t use mouthwash, which isn’t very effective and can stain the aligners. Learn more about caring for your Invisalign aligners. Dentures Like Invisalign aligners, dentures must be brushed clean (with nonabrasive denture cleanser, not toothpaste) and rinsed thoroughly every day, being careful not to bend the plastic or clasps. It’s a good idea to work with them over a folded towel to prevent damage if they’re dropped. Soak the dentures overnight in cool water, never hot, which could warp them. Braces The key to caring for braces is prevention: you can avoid damaging metal braces by foregoing foods such caramel (sticky foods), nuts (hard foods), and gum (chewy foods). It’s also important to brush regularly at a 45-degree angle down and up into the braces line to prevent food from getting stuck and causing decay. Veneers, Crowns and Bonding Any one of these restorations may be used for cracked, stained, or gapped teeth, and caring for them requires similar measures. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste. Avoid drinking excess amounts of alcohol as that can damage both bonding and the composite-resin cement used with veneers. Chewing on hard foods like ice or non-food items like pencils or fingernails can also damage these restorations and should be avoided. We’ve put together a guide on veneers aftercare to help you prolong their life and keep them in pristine condition. Implants Dedicated oral care is imperative with implants as poor dental hygiene can cause peri-implantitis, which can require removal of the implant if left untreated long enough. A brush with an end tuft is a good way to clean hard-to-reach spots around dental implants and keep bacteria at bay. Plastic toothpicks are discouraged for those with implants as they’ve been shown to leave plastic residue on the implant surface.