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Tips on Plaque and Brushing

October is National Dental Hygiene Month.  Here are some tips for you: People used to think that as you got older you naturally lost your teeth.  We now know that's not true.  By following easy steps for keeping your teeth and gums-healthy plus seeing your dentist regularly-you can have your teeth for a lifetime!

PLAQUE: What is it?  Plaque is made up of invisible masses of harmful germs that live in the mouth and stick to the teeth.  Some types of plaque cause tooth decay and other types cause gum disease.  Red, puffy or bleeding gums can be the first signs of gum disease.  If gum disease is not treated, the tissue holding the teeth in place are destroyed and the teeth are eventually lost.  Dental plaque is difficult to see unless it's stained.  You can stain plaque by chewing red "disclosing tablets," found at grocery stores and drug stores, or by using a cotton swab to smear green food coloring on your teeth.  The red or green color left on the teeth will show you where there is still plaque- and where you have to brush again to remove it.  Stain and examine your teeth regularly to make sure you are removing all plaque.  Ask your dentist or dental hygienist if your plaque removal techniques are o.k.

FLOSS: Use floss to remove germs and food particles between teeth.  Rinse.  Note:  Ease the floss into place gentlyDo NOT snap into place - this could harm your gums.

How to Brush - Teeth Brushing Techniques:  What is the right way to brush?  Proper brushing takes at least two minutes - that's right, 120 seconds!  Most adults do not come close to brushing that long.  To get a feel for the time involved, try using a stopwatch.  To properly brush your teeth, use short, gentle strokes, paying extra attention to the gumline, hard-to-reach back teeth and areas around fillings, crowns or other restorations.  Concentrate on thoroughly cleaning each section as follows: 1) Clean the outer surfaces of your upper teeth, then your lower teeth, 2) Clean the inner surfaces of your teeth, then your lower teeth, & 3) Clean the chewing surfaces.  Brush the tongue for a fresh feeling!  Rinse again.  Remember: Food residues, especially sweets, provide nutrients for the germs that cause tooth decay, as well as those that cause gum disease.  That's why it is important to remove all food residues, as well as plaque, from teeth.  Remove plaque at least once a day - twice a day is better.  If you brush and floss daily, do it before going to bed.

  1.     Tilt the brush at a 45o angle against the gumline and sweep or roll the brush away from the gumline.
  2.     Gently brush the outside, inside and chewing surface of each tooth using short back - and - forth strokes.
  3.     Gently brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen breath.

What type of toothbrush should I use?  Most dental professionals agree that a soft-bristled brush is best for removing plaque and debris from your teeth.  Small - headed brushes are also preferable, since they can better reach all areas of the mouth, including hard-to-reach back teeth.  For many, a powered toothbrush is a good alternative.  It can do a better job of cleaning teeth, particularly for those who have difficulty brushing or who have limited manual dexterity.

How important is the Toothpaste I use?  It is important that you use a toothpaste that's right for you.  Today there is a wide variety of toothpaste designed for many conditions, including cavities, gingivitis, tartar, stained teeth and sensitivity.  Ask your dentist or dental hygienist which toothpaste is right for you.

How often should I replace my toothbrush?  You should replace your toothbrush when it begins to show wear, or every three months, whichever comes first.  It is also very important to change toothbrushes after you've had a cold, since the bristles can collect germs that can lead to reinfection.