You and your dentist are partners in your oral health care. Your natural teeth are the best teeth you'll ever own, and we will do our utmost to make sure that you don't lose any. But you also have to do your part, by brushing, flossing, and seeing our office regularly.
It's not age but neglect that causes teeth to deteriorate. Prevention is the most important step you can take to preserve your oral health, so visit our office regularly and follow these oral hygiene tips to maintain your healthy smile.
This section is about what you need to do to keep your teeth and gums healthy. It tells you why these steps are important, and shows you how to do them right.
Flossing & Brushing
To have good dental health you need a mix of home and office dental care.
Flossing removes plaque and bacteria that you cannot reach with your toothbrush. If you don't floss, you are missing more than one-third of your tooth surface. Plaque is the main cause of gum disease. It is an invisible bacterial film that develops on your teeth every day.
Within 72 hours, plaque hardens into tartar (also called calculus), which can only be removed by professional cleaning. Floss at least once a day, and plaque never gets the chance to harden into tartar. Getting into the habit of daily flossing is easier when you floss while doing something else like watching TV or listening to music, for example.
How to floss your teeth
Take a length of floss around 18". Wrap it around your index and middle fingers, leaving about two inches between your hands.
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.
Be sure to floss both sides of every tooth. Don't forget the backs of your last molars. Go to a new section of the floss as it wears and picks up particles.
Brush your teeth after you floss - it is a more effective method of preventing tooth decay and gum disease.
Dr. Joe's personal way to floss
Take a piece of floss around 10" long and tie both ends together in a double knott leaving a circle about the size of a large orange. Hold the floss in a comfortable manner and then do steps 2 to 4 as above.
Flossing Problems and Solutions
Gums sometimes bleed when you first begin to floss. Bleeding usually stops after a few days. If bleeding does not stop, see our office. Floss can shred if you snag it on an old filling or on the ragged edge of a tooth.
Try another type of floss or dental tape. Ask us for advice on which floss to use. If your floss still shreds, let us find out why so we can correct it.
Regular, thorough brushing is a very important step in preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Brushing removes the bacteria that promote tooth decay and the plaque that can cause gum disease.
Ideally, you should brush after every meal, because the bacterial attack on teeth begins minutes after eating. At the very least, brush once a day and always before you go to bed. Brushing your teeth isn't complicated, but there is a right and a wrong way.
How to brush your teeth
Brush at a 45 degree angle to your teeth. Direct the bristles to where your gums and teeth meet. Use a gentle, circular, massaging motion, up and down. Don't scrub. Gums that recede visibly are often a result of years of brushing too hard.
Clean every surface of every tooth. The chewing surface, the cheek side, and the tongue side.
Don't rush your brush. A thorough brushing should take at least two to three minutes. Try timing yourself.
Change your usual brushing pattern. Most people brush their teeth the same way all the time. That means they miss the same spots all the time. Try reversing your usual pattern.
Use a soft brush with rounded bristles. The right toothbrush cleans better. Choose a size and shape that allow you to reach all the way to your back teeth. There are many different types of brushes, so ask us to suggest the best one for you. We recommend that you replace your toothbrush every three months or when the bristles start bending over.
A balanced and nutritious diet is good for your general health and your dental health. Without the right nutrients, your teeth and gums can become more susceptible to decay and gum disease.
Sugar is one of the main causes of dental problems. The average Canadian eats the equivalent of 40 kg of sugar each year. Here are a few ways to cut down:
- Try to choose sugar-free snacks - see the snacks listed below.
- Add less sugar to coffee or tea (or use sugar substitutes).
- Avoid sugar-sweetened soft drinks.
- Look for fruit juices and drinks with no added sugar.
- Read lists of ingredients when you're grocery shopping. Honey, molasses, liquid invert sugar, glucose, and fructose are all types of sugar. Each one is just as bad as the other.
- When you do eat sweets, avoid sticky sweets. They cling to teeth and are harder to brush away. Eat sweets with a meal, not as a snack. The increased flow of saliva during a meal helps to wash away and dilute sugar.
- Carry a travel-size toothbrush and use it after eating sweets. If you can't brush, at least rinse your mouth with water or eat a fibrous fruit or raw vegetables. Or chew a piece of sugarless gum.
Some great-tasting snacks that won't harm your teeth:
- Plain milk and buttermilk
- Fruit and raw vegetables
- Plain yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese
- Hard boiled or devilled eggs
- Nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- Melba toast
Nutrition for Children
When your child eats or drinks sugars, the germs (bacteria) in your child's mouth mix with the sugars to make a mild acid. This acid attacks the hard outer layer of teeth (also called enamel). It can make holes (or cavities) in the teeth.
The damage that sugars do depends on how much sugar goes into the mouth and how long it stays in the mouth.
Any kind of sugar will mix with germs in the mouth. Natural sugars can have the same effect on teeth as white (or refined) sugar out of the bag! Many healthy foods contain natural sugars. Milk contains natural sugar.
If you put your child to bed with a bottle of milk, the milk stays in the mouth for a long time. This may cause cavities. Unsweetened fruit juice may have no added sugar, but fruit juice has natural sugars in it. If your child is always sipping juice between meals, the teeth are being coated in sugars over and over again.
Water is the best drink to have between meals. Starchy foods, like teething biscuits, break down to make sugars. If these kinds of food stay in your child's mouth long enough, they will make the acid that can cause cavities. Your job is to clean your child's teeth, not to stop your child from having milk, juice, bread or noodles. Your child needs these foods to stay healthy.
Read the labels of the packaged food you buy. By law, everything ingredient in packaged food is listed by weight. So if a sugar is listed first, you know that there is more sugar than anything else.
These are sugars you can look for on labels: corn sweeteners; corn syrup; dextrose; fructose; glucose; honey; maple syrup; molasses and sucrose.
Also, check to see if liquid medicines (such as cough syrup) have sugars. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to give you medicines that are sugar-free.
Growing children need and like snacks. Here are some smart ways to give snacks:
Limit the number of times a day your child eats or drinks sugars. If your child sips juice or pop while playing, he or she will have sugars in the mouth over and over again. Water is the best drink to have between meals.
Do not give your child sugar-rich foods that stay in the mouth for a long time like gum with sugar in it, suckers (or lollipops) and other hard candy. Stay away from soft, sticky sweets that get stuck in the mouth such as toffee, raisins and rolled-up fruit snacks or fruit leather.
Keep good snacks handy where your child can get them. Have carrot sticks or cheese cubes on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Children like small things like small boxes of cereal, small fruits and vegetables, and small packs of nuts or seeds (provided they are safe for your child). Keep them in a low cupboard.
To keep your child from asking for sweets, do not buy them. If they are not in the house, you can't give them out. If you do serve sweets, limit them to meals. When your child is eating a meal, there is more saliva in the mouth. This helps to wash away the sugars.
5 Steps To Good Oral Health
As part of a healthy lifestyle and to help reduce the risk of oral disease, follow these 5 steps to good oral health.
1. See your dentist regularly
- Regular checkups and professional cleanings are the best way to prevent problems or to stop small problems from getting worse.
- We will look for signs of oral disease. Oral diseases often go unnoticed and may lead to or be a sign of serious health problems in other parts of the body.
- Only the dentist has the care, skill and judgement to diagnose and treat oral health diseases and to meet all your oral health care needs.
2. Practise good oral hygiene
- Using a soft-bristle toothbrush, brush your teeth and tongue at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque and bacteria that cause cavities and periodontal disease (gum disease).
- Floss every day. If you don’t floss, you are missing more than a third of your tooth surface.
- When choosing oral care products, look for the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) Seal of Recognition.
3. Eat a well-balanced diet
- Healthy food is good for your general health and your oral health. The nutrients that come from healthy foods help you to fight cavities and gum disease.
- Avoid excess sugar. It is one of the main causes of dental problems.
4. Check your mouth regularly
- Look for warning signs of periodontal disease (gum disease). Gum disease is one of the main reasons why adults lose their teeth. The warning signs include:
- Red, shiny, puffy, sore or sensitive gums
- Bleeding when you brush or floss
- Bad breath that won’t go away.
- Look for warning signs of oral cancer. The 3 most common sites for oral cancer are the sides and bottom of your tongue and the floor of your mouth. The warning signs include:
- Bleeding that you can’t explain
- Open sores that don’t heal within 7 to 10 days
- White or red patches
- Numbness or tingling
- Small lumps and thickening on the sides or bottom of your tongue, the floor or roof of your mouth, the inside of your cheeks or on your gums.
- Report any of these warning signs to our office.
5. Don’t smoke or chew tobacco
- Smoking and chewing tobacco are dangerous to your oral health and your overall health.
- Tobacco use is a major cause of tooth loss through gum disease and may lead to serious problems like oral cancer.
- Tobacco can cause heart disease and a variety of cancers.
If you take care of your teeth and gums at home and visit our office regularly, your smile should last you a lifetime.
How to Spot Trouble
Here is a quick guide to common dental problems. You should visit your dentist if you have these warning signs.
Bad breath that doesn't go away
The cause might be gum disease, food, drinking, smoking, medicine you are taking or a health condition. If you cannot get rid of bad breath with daily brushing and flossing, see our office.
Your gums bleed when you brush or floss
If you just started to floss, a little bleeding is normal. But if you bleed almost every time you brush or floss your teeth, see our office.
For women, menopause may be the cause. Also elderly people have very dry mouths. It is also a side effect of many common medicines. It does not feel good and it can make dental problems worse. You need to tell us if you have this problem.
A tooth that is a little bit loose
A loose tooth could be caused by gum disease or by a blow to the mouth. In any case, it is a serious problem. You should see our office.
A sore mouth
A sore mouth might be caused by false teeth that don't fit well. It could also be from leaving false teeth in overnight. "Burning mouth syndrome" is a problem that affects some older women. Not eating the right kind of food may also be the cause.
Bleeding that you can't explain
Mouth sores that don't heal in 7 to 10 days
White or red patches in your mouth
Feeling numb or sore inside your mouth
These symptoms may be signs of oral cancer. See our office right away.
Teeth that are sensitive to:
Teeth can become sensitive all of a sudden, or it can happen over time. In most cases, this kind of pain means something is wrong. Check with us so we can eliminate this problem. You don't want to have this problem for the rest of your life.