Flossing & Brushing
Along with a regular checkup, brushing and flossing are the most important things you can do for your dental health.
Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Regular and thorough brushing removes the plaque that causes gum disease and decay. Brushing your teeth isn't complicated, but there is a right way to do it.
How to Brush
Use a soft brush with rounded bristles. Choose a size and shape that allow you to reach all the way to your back teeth. Replace your toothbrush every three months.
Brush at a 45 degree angle to your teeth. Put the bristles at the place where your gums and teeth meet. Use gentle circles. Don't scrub. Years of brushing too hard can make your gums recede.
Clean every surface of every tooth. This means you must brush the cheek side, the tongue side and the top of each tooth.
Slow down. A thorough brushing should take two to three minutes. Try timing yourself.
Brush your tongue.
How to Floss
Flossing removes plaque and bacteria from places your toothbrush can't reach. In fact, if you're not flossing, you're missing more than 1/3 of your tooth surface. Floss at least once a day. It may be easier to get into the habit if you floss while doing something else - watching TV or listening to music, for example.
Take a length of floss about as long as your arm. Wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about two inches between your hands. Use your index fingers to guide the floss between your teeth.
Slide the floss between your teeth and wrap it into a "C" shape around the base of the tooth and gently under the gumline. Wipe the tooth from base to tip two or three times.
Floss both sides of every tooth. Don't forget the backs of your last molars. Move to a new part of the floss as you move from tooth to tooth.
Problems with Brushing and Flossing?
If you find holding your toothbrush difficult because you have arthritis or some other health condition, try enlarging the handle with a sponge, several layers of aluminum foil, or a bicycle handle grip.
If flossing feels awkward or if your fingers always seem to get tangled, try using a plastic floss holder - your dentist or hygienist can recommend one. Or try dental tape instead. It's wider and easier to grasp than floss.
If you lose a tooth, you can replace it with a "false" (or artificial) tooth. If you don't replace it, your other teeth may get out of line. You need to care for complete dentures and partial dentures as carefully as you would look after natural teeth.
Four Main Types of Dentures
A fixed bridge (or fixed partial denture). One or more false teeth are held between healthy teeth on both sides. You cannot take this kind of bridge out by yourself.
A partial denture (or removable partial denture). One or more false teeth are held in place by clasps that fit onto nearby healthy teeth. You can take the false teeth out yourself, for cleaning and at night.
Complete dentures. If you lose your teeth, these dentures can replace all your natural teeth.
Dental implants. Dental implants are used to support false teeth or a fixed bridge. You must have healthy gums and bone (under your teeth) to support the implant. Your dentist (or oral surgeon) will put a small metal post into your jawbone.
Over time, the post will bond with the bone around it. The post (or implant) will act like an anchor to hold one or more false teeth in place.
Looking After your Dentures
You need to care for complete and partial dentures as carefully as you would look after natural teeth.
Clean them every day. Plaque and tartar can build up on false teeth, just like they do on natural teeth.
Take them out every night. Brush your teeth and gums carefully, using a soft toothbrush. Be sure to clean and massage your gums. If your toothbrush hurts you, run it under warm water to make it softer OR try using a finger wrapped in a clean, damp cloth.
Soak them overnight. They can be soaked in a special cleaner for false teeth (denture cleanser), in warm water or in a mix of warm water and vinegar (half and half). If your denture has metal clasps, use warm water only for soaking. Soaking will loosen plaque and tartar. They will then come off more easily when you brush.
Caring for Implants
Because the implant sticks to bone, it can be treated more like a natural tooth. But it is NOT as strong as a natural tooth. You must brush and floss the implant very carefully. Be gentle, but make sure you brush all sides of the implant. At least once a day, floss very carefully. You will need to be gentle with the floss where the implant meets the gum.
If you have false teeth, see your dentist regularly. Your mouth is always changing. This means your false teeth will need to be adjusted from time to time to make sure you have a good fit.
If you have a bridge or implants, check-ups will help you make sure that your natural teeth get good care. If you have problems with your false teeth, your dentist may suggest you see a special dentist who knows more about false teeth. This kind of dentist is called a prosthodontist.
People who have complete or partial dentures can also get gum disease around any natural teeth that are left. If you have gum disease:
Your false teeth will not fit well over gums that are sore, swollen or bleeding.
Your partial dentures (or removable dentures) will not be held firmly in place if your natural teeth and gums are not strong.
Be sure to see your dentist regularly for professional cleaning and check ups, so that he or she can detect any early signs of gum disease, and provide appropriate treatment.
Tips for Caregivers
You may find yourself looking after the health of someone else. This person may be family, or a close friend. There is a lot you can do to help when this person needs mouth care.
It may feel a bit strange at first, so go slowly. If the person does not want your help, respect their wishes. Ask your dentist for advice in this case.
Here are the procedures you should follow:
- Stand behind the person to brush and floss their teeth.
- Let the person sit in front of the sink. That way, you can make the same motions you use when you brush and floss your own teeth.
- Make sure you use a soft toothbrush. Or you may find an electric toothbrush better when you brush someone else's teeth. Ask the person to tell you if you are brushing too hard.
- Have the person rinse with warm water when you are done.
Complete or Partial Dentures
- Let the person tell or show you how to take the complete dentures or "partial" out. (With complete dentures, put the upper set back first, and then the lower set.)
- Both kinds of dentures must be cleaned daily.
- Look for cracks in the denture. If you find any, take it to a dentist for repair.
- Fill the sink with water.
- Scrub the denture with a denture brush and soap.
- Rinse with water when you finish cleaning.
- Soak denture overnight. It can be soaked in a special cleaner for dentures (denture cleanser), in warm water or in a mix of warm water and vinegar (half and half). If the denture has metal clasps, use warm water only for soaking.
- Ask if it is okay to look inside the person's mouth.
- Check the mouth closely. Look for swelling, red or white patches, parts of the gums that have changed colour and sores that do not heal in a few days. If you see any of these things, call the person's dentist.
- Clean and massage the inside of the person's mouth with a damp cloth or a soft toothbrush.
The Check Up
As you get older, you may have dentures or dental implants. These dentures and implants need to be checked by your dentist. If you take medicine that makes your mouth dry, or makes your gums grow, you need to have a dentist take a close look.
A check up can include some or all of these procedures:
- Examination and Treatment
Examination and Treatment
Everybody needs regular dental check ups. The reason is simple: even if you brush and floss every day, you cannot see all the parts of your own mouth.
Your dentist looks for gum disease, cavities, loose fillings, broken teeth, infection, cancer and signs of other problems that could affect your general health. Many small problems can be caught before they get big. Many small problems can be treated right away.
There are two parts to cleaning. First, your dentist (or the dental hygienist) scrapes away tartar that could cause gum disease. Then, a member of the dental team polishes your teeth.
When your dentist is finished the check up, you will be able to ask questions and seek advice. Tell your dentist:
- If you smoke.
- About any health problem or medical condition you are being treated for.
- About any changes in your general health.
- About any allergies you have.
- About any medicine you are taking.
- About any changes in medicine since your last visit.
- About any fears you have about going to the dentist.
- About any dental or mouth problems you have.
- About any way the dental office could make it easier for you to get around (if you have a cane, a wheelchair, or a walker).
- About stress in your life, because stress can affect your oral health.
If you have a bridge, denture, or implant, a check up is a good opportunity to ask your dentist to make sure it's in good shape.
Check ups may seem expensive, particularly if you are on a fixed income. However, many dental practices offer convenient payment plans. If you are covered by a dental benefit plan, your dentist can help you determine the extent of your coverage before you start treatment.
Many dental practices are able to transmit dental claims through CDAnet, an electronic claims processing system that speeds up the reimbursement process. Depending on your plan, you may receive your cheque in less than a week. Ask whether your dentist has registered for CDAnet.
While managing health care expenses is an economic reality for many Canadians, it is important to remember that in the long run, check ups cost much less than waiting until you have a serious dental problem.
Regular preventive dental care and maintenance are always less expensive than treatment. A regular check up, along with daily brushing and flossing, is the most important thing you can do to preserve your dental health.