Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping the mouth clean and healthy by brushing and flossing to reduce tooth decay and gum disease.
The goal of oral hygiene is to stop the accumulation of plaque, the sticky film of food and bacteria that forms on the teeth. Plaque adheres to the crevices and fissures of the teeth also creates acids which, when not removed on a regular basis, gradually eat away, or decay, the protective enamel surface of the teeth, causing holes (cavities) to form.
Plaque also irritates gums and may result in gum disease (periodontal disease) and tooth loss. Toothbrushing and flossing remove plaque from teeth, and antiseptic mouthwashes kill a few of the bacteria which help form plaque. Fluoride-in toothpaste, drinking water, or dental treatments-also can help to protect teeth by binding with the tooth to make it more powerful.
Besides these daily oral care, routine visits to the dentist promote oral health. The dentist may also perform such diagnostic services as x-ray imaging and oral cancer screening in addition to such therapy solutions as fillings, crowns, and bridges.
Maintaining oral hygiene should be a lifelong habit. A baby’s teeth and, later, teeth should be kept clean by wiping them with a moist cloth or a soft toothbrush. However, only a tiny amount (the size of a pea) of toothpaste containing fluoride should be used since an excessive amount of fluoride could be toxic to babies.
An adult who has full or partial dentures should also maintain good oral hygiene. Bridges and dentures must be kept clean to avoid gum disease. Dentures should be relined and corrected by a dentist as required to keep proper fit so the gums don’t become red, swollen, and tender.
Brushing and flossing should be carried out thoroughly but not too aggressively. Rough mechanical activity may damage or irritate sensitive oral tissues. Sore or bleeding gums may be experienced for the first few days following flossing is started. But, bleeding continuing beyond one week ought to be brought to the attention of a dentist. As a rule of thumb, any abnormal condition that doesn’t disappear after 10 days must be examined by a dentist.
Brushing should be carried out using a toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and preferably after each meal and snack. Effective cleaning must wash each outer enamel surface, inner tooth surface, and the horizontal chewing surfaces of the back teeth.
- To clean the outer and inner surfaces, the toothbrush should be held in a 45-degree angle against the gums and moved back and forth in short strokes (no longer than 1 tooth width distance).
- To clean the inside surfaces of front teeth, the toothbrush should be held vertically and the bristles at the tip (known as the foot of the brush) moved gently up and down from each tooth.
- To clean the chewing surfaces of the large back teeth, the brush should be kept flat and moved back and forth. In the end, the tongue should also be brushed with a back-to-front sweeping motion to remove food particles and bacteria that may sour the breath.
Toothbrushes wear out and should be replaced every 3 months. Consumers should look for toothbrushes with soft, nylon, rounded bristles in a size and shape which allows them to reach all tooth surfaces easily.
Holding a toothbrush might be difficult for individuals with limited use of the hands. The toothbrush handle may be altered by inserting it into a rubber ball for easier gripping.
Flossing once a day helps prevent gum disease by removing food particles and plaque below the gumline as well as between teeth. Flossing proceeds between all teeth and supporting the last teeth. Flossing should also be carried out around the abutment (support) teeth of a bridge and under any artificial teeth with a device known as a floss threader.
Dental floss comes in several varieties (waxed, unwaxed, flavored, tape) and could be chosen on personal taste. For men and women that have difficulty handling floss, floss holders and other kinds of interdental (between the teeth) cleaning aids, like brushes and picks, are readily available.
Negative effects arise from improper or infrequent brushing and flossing. The five important oral health issues are plaque, tartar, gingivitis, periodontitis, and tooth decay.
Read more about The Importance of Oral Health
Plaque is a soft, sticky, colorless bacterial film that develops on the hard, rough surfaces of teeth. Plaque starts forming on teeth to 12 hours after brushing, so brushing a minimum of twice per day is essential for adequate oral hygiene.
When plaque isn’t regularly removed by brushing and flossing, it hardens to a yellow or brown mineral deposit called tartar or calculus. This creation is crusty and supplies additional rough surfaces to the development of plaque. When tartar forms beneath the gumline, it may cause periodontal (gum) disease.
- Tooth decay
With good brushing and flossing, oral hygiene could be preserved and oral health problems might be avoided. Older adults may no longer assume that they will lose all their teeth in their lifetime. Regular oral care preserves eating and speech functions, thereby prolonging the quality of life.