Dental treatments

Dental hygiene

Dental hygienists provide clinical care as well as advice and information on good oral health to individuals and groups of patients.

They work alongside and under the instruction of dentists to help prevent dental problems.
Our specialised hygienists not only clean your teeth but will also:

  • Remove plaque
  • Scale and polish teeth to help prevent gum disease
  • Apply antibacterial agents to reduce decay
  • Apply temporary coatings and sealants
  • Demonstrate and encourage good oral hygiene.

Important information about dental hygiene you should know

The teeth and mouth are vulnerable to many diseases and there is a lot that can go wrong which can cause ill health and deterioration of the teeth.

Symptoms such as bleeding gums or pus around the teeth, bad breath (halitosis), bad taste or loosening of the teeth require intensive cleaning and aggressive oral hygiene measures by your dentist to prevent premature loss of teeth.

Vulnerable groups

Extra care is needed with children's teeth to make sure they grow up with strong healthy dentition, but the elderly, pregnant women, those with learning difficulties or physical disabilities and others with special health problems also need to take special care. Regardless of how good your diet and lifestyle is, plaque accumulates on your teeth. Therefore, regular brushing and flossing is needed to prevent dental damage.

Lifestyle

Important lifestyle factors include a well-balanced diet and avoiding tobacco and too much alcohol.

The amount of plaque produced is consistent with the amount of starchy, sugary foods that are consumed - so the more starchy, sugary foods consumed, the more that plaque is produced.

Bacteria in the mouth produce acid from sugars, which decays the teeth. As the bacteria grow, they produce a white film around the necks of the teeth called plaque, and this plaque contains the acid that causes decay.

Fizzy drinks are acidic and also cause erosion of the teeth. Refined sugar is the worst for the teeth as it is so readily digested by oral bacteria. Sugars from fruit and starch, however, are less harmful. Because bacteria need constant nourishment, snacking is bad and eating should be confined as much as possible to meal times. However, hard fibrous foods like apples have a mechanical cleaning effect on the teeth and some foods like cheese or sugar-free chewing gum can protect against decay because they raise the alkalinity and stimulate saliva.

Vitamins and iron are also important, so meat and dairy products are healthy. Tobacco, well known to promote oral cancer, can lead to gum inflammation and too much alcohol is also bad for oral health.

Benefits of good oral hygiene

A clean mouth helps prevent dental disease. No matter how good the diet and lifestyle, sticky plaque accumulates on everyone's teeth promoting gum disease.

As gums recede, more plaque builds up and gum disease worsens. Careful brushing of the teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste will enable the tooth to mend itself after being attacked with plaque acids. Teeth can also erode, this means they dissolve away when you have acidic food and drink too often. Rinsing the acids away with water after eating helps to prevent this erosion.

Brushing teeth properly

Ideally, everyone should brush their teeth twice a day with a soft-medium brush and a fluoride toothpaste. The brush should be replaced when bristles become out of shape.

The bristles should be placed between the teeth and gums pointing towards the gums using short circular movements. Every tooth should be brushed around making sure the brush can be felt on the gums. A gentle scrub is better than using too much force and as small children cannot brush properly until they are about seven or eight, brush their teeth yourself and teach them the technique properly.

Flossing

Dental floss helps clean between the teeth. If your dentist or hygienist has told you that you need to floss, they will almost certainly show you how to do it, and you will probably need to practise in front of a mirror.

Use a piece of floss about eight inches long. Wrap the ends around the middle fingers of each hand leaving two to three inches between the first finger and thumb.

Then gently slide the floss between two teeth and put it round one tooth next to the gum using your fingers. The floss is then moved between the teeth several times. This is then repeated for every tooth. Children do not need to use floss.

Fluoride

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is very effective in protecting teeth against decay. When teeth first start to decay, minerals in saliva help mend the teeth, but the mending process requires fluoride to work properly. In Britain only 1 person in 10 gets enough fluoride from the water supply, therefore fluoride is useful when added to toothpaste. Most packs will tell you how many parts per million of fluoride the toothpaste contains, measured in ppm - 500ppm is a low level, 1000-1500ppm is a high level.

A low dose toothpaste should be used for children under seven because it is important to avoid too much fluoride while permanent teeth are still forming as it can mark the teeth. Therefore, help children up to the age of seven clean their teeth, avoid them swallowing toothpaste and use only a pea-sized blob on their brush.

Extra fluoride tablets or drops are usually only recommended for patients with very bad decay or who have an illness that makes it particularly important to avoid dental problems.

Prevention is the key

As the years go by the teeth and gums come under attack and decay and erosion of teeth is to some extent inevitable. But the process can largely be prevented or avoided altogether by regular attention to oral hygiene.

A few minutes every day can save unpleasant, unattractive and unhealthy consequences in future years.

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