Use a soft bristle toothbrush with a small strip of fluoride toothpaste. When you brush your teeth, move the brush in small circular motions to reach food particles that may be under the gum line. Hold the toothbrush at an angle, brush slowly and carefully, covering all areas between teeth and the surface of each tooth. Ideally, thoroughly brushing your teeth should take you several minutes. Brush up on the lower teeth, down on the upper teeth, and the outside, inside and chewing surface of your entire front and back teeth. Brush your tongue and the roof of your mouth before you rinse.
Brush your teeth four times daily to avoid the accumulation of food particles and plaque:
- In the morning after breakfast
- After lunch or right after school
- After dinner
- At bedtime
As soon as the bristles start to wear down or fray, replace your toothbrush with a new one. Do not swallow any toothpaste; rinse your mouth thoroughly with water after brushing. It is important to carefully floss and brush daily for optimal oral hygiene.
For areas between the teeth that a toothbrush cannot reach, dental floss is used. Dental floss is a thin thread of waxed nylon that is used to reach below the gum line and clean between teeth. It is very important to floss your teeth every day.
Pull a small length of floss from the dispenser. Wrap the ends of the floss tightly around your middle fingers. Guide the floss between all teeth to the gum line, pulling out any food particles or plaque. Unwrap clean floss from around your finger as you go, so that you have used floss from beginning to end when you finish. Floss behind all your back teeth.
Floss at night to make sure your teeth are squeaky clean before you go to bed. When you first begin flossing your gums may bleed a little. If the bleeding does not go away after the first time, let a staff member know at your next appointment.
Caries, or tooth decay, is a preventable disease. While caries might not endanger your life, they may negatively affect the quality of it.
When your teeth and gums are consistently exposed to large amounts of starches and sugars, acids may form that begin to eat away at tooth enamel. Carbohydrate-rich foods such as candy, cookies, soft drinks and even fruit juices leave deposits on your teeth. Those deposits bond with the bacteria that normally survive in your mouth and form plaque. The combination of deposits and plaque forms acids that can damage the mineral structure of teeth, resulting in tooth decay.
Human teeth expand and contract in response to changes in temperature. Hot and cold food and beverages can cause pain or irritation to people with sensitive teeth. Over time, tooth enamel is worn out, gums may recede, or teeth may develop microscopic cracks, exposing the interior of the tooth and irritating nerve endings. Just breathing cold air can be painful for those who have extremely sensitive teeth.
Gum or periodontal disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss, and bone damage. Gum disease begins with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Gums in the early stage of disease, or gingivitis, can bleed easily and become red and swollen. As the disease progresses to periodontitis, teeth may fall out or need to be removed by a dentist.
Most gum diseases are preventable and can usually be avoided by daily brushing and flossing. One indicator of gum disease is consistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth.
Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Brushing and flossing help prevent the buildup of food particles, plaque and bacteria in your mouth. Food particles left in the mouth decompose causing bad breath. While certain foods such as garlic or anchovies may create bad breath temporarily, consistent bad breath may be a sign of gum disease or another dental problem.
Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are small sores inside the mouth that often recur. Generally lasting one or two weeks, the duration of canker sores can be reduced by the use of antimicrobial mouthwashes or topical agents. The canker sore has a white or gray base surrounded by a red border.
A bite that does not meet properly (a malocclusion) can be inherited, or some types may be acquired. Some causes of malocclusion include missing or extra teeth, crowded teeth, or misaligned jaws. Accidents or developmental issues such as sucking fingers or thumb for an extended time may cause malocclusion.