Alternate Names : Dental Hygiene
Dental care has changed a great deal in recent years. Brushing, flossing and regular dental check ups are now common. These practices have helped cut down on oral diseases such as tooth decay (dental caries) and gum disease (gingivitis, periodontitis). Fluoride in toothpaste has also played an important role in preventing tooth decay.
The purpose of oral hygiene is to remove dental plaque from the teeth and gums. Plaque is made up of bacteria and mineral deposits. It forms continually in the mouth. When not removed promptly, plaque can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. For most people, brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day is enough to remove accumulated plaque. Some people tend to build up plaque more quickly than others. Individuals should consult their own dentist or hygienist about specific care instructions.
The most important parts of the teeth and gums to clean are also the most difficult to reach. That is why it is key to brush teeth up to the edges of the gums, floss regularly, and even brush the top of the tongue. People who have bridges, orthodontic bands, or other difficult to clean areas of the mouth may need to use special brushing devices. Thorough brushing has the added benefit of producing fresher breath.
Regular dental exams and professional cleanings are also critical. The remnants of the bacterial plaque hardens onto the teeth in the form of tartar. The dentist or hygienist can remove this substance. Periodic dental x-rays performed at these visits can uncover evidence of dental disease at an early and treatable stage. For most people, a cleaning and examination twice a year is enough although some people may need more frequent care.
Who is a candidate for the procedure?
A child's first visit to the dentist should be scheduled when the first few baby teeth appear at around age 6 months. This will be a get-acquainted visit. At about 3 years old, when most of the baby teeth have come in, a child should begin having exams every 6 months. This allows the child to get used to dental visits. Most children who start this way do not develop lifelong fears of the dentist's office. The dentist will show the parents how to care for a small child's teeth and recommend fluoride supplements when needed. Twice yearly (every six months) dental visits should be continued from childhood through adulthood.