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Home  Dentistry Articles  Oral hygiene

Oral hygiene

Oral hygiene is keeping the mouth clean. Oral hygiene is considered to be the best means of prevention of cavities (dental caries), gingivitis, periodontitis, and other dental disorders. It also helps to prevent bad breath (halitosis). Oral hygiene is necessary for all persons to maintain the health of their teeth and mouth. Healthy teeth have fewer cavities. They are clean and have minimal or no plaque deposits. Healthy gums are pink and firm.

Oral hygiene consists of both personal and professional care. Dental X-rays may be performed as part of routine professional examinations.

Personal care

Careful and frequent toothbrushing and flossing help to prevent build-up of plaque and calculus (tartar), which can lead to cavities. If dental cavities develop, it can cost thousands of dollars (US) to drill out the cavities and insert dental fillings.

The teeth should be brushed at least twice daily, preferably after every meal and at bedtime, and flossed at least once per day. For some people, flossing might be recommended after every meal. Consult a dentist or dental hygienist if instruction or demonstration of proper brushing and flossing techniques is needed.

Special appliances or tools may be recommended to supplement (but not to replace) tooth brushing and flossing. These include special toothpicks, water irrigation, or other devices. Initially electric toothbrushes were only recommended for persons who have problems with strength or dexterity of their hands, but many dentists are now recommending them to many other patients in order to improve their dental home care.

Fluoride-containing, or anti-plaque (tartar control) toothpastes or mouth rinses may be recommended by the dentist or dental hygienist.

Dentures, retainers, and other appliances must be kept extremely clean. This includes regular brushing and may include soaking them in a cleansing solution.

Professional care

Regular tooth cleaning by the dentist or dental hygienist is important to remove plaque that may develop even with careful brushing and flossing, especially in areas that are difficult for a patient to reach on his own at home. Professional cleaning includes tooth scaling and tooth polishing. This involves the use of various instruments or devices to loosen and remove deposits from the teeth.

Many dentists recommend having the teeth professionally cleaned every six months. More frequent cleaning and examination may be necessary during the treatment of many of the dental/oral disorders. Routine examination of the teeth is recommended at least every year. This may include yearly, select dental X-rays. See also dental plaque identification procedure and removal.

Outcome

Good oral hygiene prevents, and is vital to the treatment of, many of the dental and oral disorders. Good oral hygiene results in healthy teeth and mouth.

Complications

Usually there are no complications; however, overly vigorous or improperly performed brushing and flossing may result in injury to the gingiva (gums).

Call the dentist or dental hygienist if instructions or demonstration of proper brushing or flossing techniques is needed, or to schedule routine dental cleaning and examination.

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