The first line of defense against tooth decay is the Dental Hygienist who tackles the tartar, plaque and trouble spots that can lead to trouble. During National Dental Hygiene Month in October, the skilled Hygienists at Elmwood Dental Group in West Hartford are sharing their top-secret tips and tools to help all patients preserve their pearly whites.
Toothbrushes and Technique
“Both electric and manual toothbrushes are effective at cleaning teeth if you use proper technique and brush long enough,” explains Megan Carlson, Registered Dental Hygienist at Elmwood Dental Group (EDG). “However research has found that an electric toothbrush may make brushing easier, resulting in better plaque removal.”
Carlson cautions that the electric toothbrush is not meant to be used like a manual toothbrush. Using it like a manual toothbrush can result in gum recession and/or enamel damage that can wear down and change the actual shape of the teeth. To properly use an electric toothbrush, hold it half on the gums, half on the teeth at a 45 degree angle gently for a few seconds in the same place before moving the brush. The electric brushing process should take the same time as manual toothbrushing at two minutes, twice a day. Benefits of electric models include a beeping timer to ensure length of brushing and more thorough results.
Electric toothbrushes never look worn like a manual toothbrush and should be changed every three months regardless. With cold and flu season approaching, the head should be changed after a person is sick as bacteria can live in the toothbrush.
“Cleaning between your teeth once a day while brushing twice a day should be an important part of your daily hygiene routine,” says Carlson. “But don’t just move the floss up and down. Hold the floss tightly around each tooth in a C shape; move the floss back and forth in a push-pull motion and up and down against the side of each tooth.”
A water flosser or water pick is a handheld device that sprays a steady stream of water and uses the pressure of the water to massage the gums and push the food away from the teeth. Water flosserscomes in a countertop model or a cordless compact model and both are easy to use. The water can help to clean between and around teeth, but it is not recommended to replace flossing. It is a good alternative for people who refuse to floss, have a hard time reaching their back teeth, or have dental implants, bridges or braces.
Battling Bad Breath
“The number one myth about mouthwash is that you have to use one with alcohol,” says Carlson. “The alcohol can actually cause dry mouth and can possibly trigger bad breath, so I recommend choosing a mouthwash without alcohol.”
Bad breath can be a result of several different sources from stomach conditions to teeth problems to diet. Most of the problems do however start with the mouth and may include:
- Bacteria on the tongue – A tongue scraper can help in removing the extra bacteria from the tongue or use the tooth brush with a small amount of toothpaste to gently clean and remove the bacteria.
- Undiagnosed tooth decay – A cavity is the result of the destruction of the tooth surface brought on by the bacteria that exists in your mouth. The combination of cavities and the bacteria can cause an odor.
- Poor oral hygiene – Brush twice a day and clean the bacteria out from between teeth with floss or a water pick.
- Dentures that are not taken out daily and properly cleaned.
- Dry mouth – Saliva helps to keep your mouth clean by removing food particles that can lead to bad breath. When saliva is decreased or stops a condition known as xerostomia. This can happen naturally when you sleep, which is why people find their breath a little stinky when they wake up in the morning.
Additional causes of bad breath include:
- Eating certain foods – Onions, garlic, and certain spices contain odor causing food particles that enter the bloodstream. Once they do, they are carried to the lungs where they affect the odor each time a person exhales.
- Coffee – Intense flavor and caffeine lead to a decline in saliva production. Less saliva means an increase in odor causing bacteria.
- Alcohol – In excess, it also causes dry mouth, which is the best environment for odor-causing bacteria the flourish.
- Smoking – Whether it is cigarettes, chew or pipe, can all cause bad breath and also lead to more serious oral health issues. Not only can this smell linger, it is a leading cause of gum disease.
- Digestive issues – Acid reflux can cause unfortunate breath odors. It is usually the odors from recently consumed food that may make their way back up the esophagus and out the mouth causing bad breath.
- Prescription medications- Hundreds of medications come with the side effect of dry mouth. Some medications, when broken down in the body, release chemicals that can be carried through the bloodstream to the breath.
- Other health issues – Post nasal drip, tonsil infections, sinus problems, diabetes, liver and kidney issues, as well as certain blood disorders.
“Bad breath may indicate a much more serious health problem, so do not take bad breath lightly,” advises Carlson. “Don’t be embarrassed to discuss your concerns about your breath with your hygienist.”
Dr. Ana Paula Gomes, one of the dentists at Elmwood Dental Group, encourages people to take proper care of their teeth as poor dental practices can cause gum disease, a serious gum infection that damages the gums and can destroy the bone support around teeth. “This month we are celebrating the work of dental hygienists who have a primary, preventative role in a patient’s oral healthcare to help raise awareness about its importance.”
A Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH) is a licensed dental professional who has been through an accredited dental hygiene course of study and passed national and state exams. The hygienist focuses on the prevention and treatment of oral disease. The RDH typically acts as ancillary dental staff under the supervision of a dentist.
Elmwood Dental Group LLC is a full-service dental, cosmetic and restorative practice dedicated to providing comprehensive, quality care with compassion. Since 1982, the friendly, family-oriented practice has proudly served the West Hartford, Newington, and Hartford, CT communities with patient education and oral care services for patients of all ages. The office is located at 1132 New Britain Ave. in West Hartford. Convenient appointments are available Monday- Friday, and Saturday by appointment. For more information visit www.elmwooddentalllc.com or call (860) 331-8748.
PHOTO: The kind and caring team of dental hygienists at Elmwood Dental Group always make patients feel happy and relaxed from their first step into the practice office! Lower Left: Lisa and Christine; Upper Left: Amy and Meg
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