Home dental hygiene consists of two basic practices, brushing and flossing.
- Brushing – This procedure should be done at least twice a day. Try to do a thorough job without rushing. Brush with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste. An electric toothbrush is more effective than manual brushing at removing plaque, which is the precursor of cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis. Brush the inside, outside, and biting surfaces of your teeth. Rinse your brush off after use and store it vertically to air dry. Brushes (or the brush heads for electric toothbrushes) should be replaced every three to four months.
- Flossing – Start with about 18 inches of dental floss. Wind the floss around the middle fingers of both hands. Then, hold the floss between your thumb and forefinger of each hand. Carefully pull the floss between your teeth so as not to injure the gum. Curve the floss around a tooth, and gently move the floss from the bottom of the tooth toward the biting surface of the tooth. Unwind fresh floss as you move to other teeth.
Dental Cleaning at the Dentist’s Office
For patients who have healthy teeth and gums, there are three stages to professional teeth cleaning. (Patients who have gum disease undergo more extensive and specialized treatments.)
- Scaling – Calculus or tartar is a form of hardened dental plaque. It is created by the accumulation of minerals from saliva by plaque on your teeth. A dentist will remove the tartar either with a manual tool called a scaler, or an electronic device called an ultrasonic scaler, which uses vibration to disintegrate calculus and disrupt bacterial cells and wash them away from the tooth in a stream of water.
- Polishing – The polishing process involves the dentist using a device that has a spinning rubber head which polishes the teeth with a slightly abrasive paste. Polishing removes some minor stains and makes tooth surfaces smoother, which causes the teeth to be less likely sites for plaque and harmful bacteria.
- Fluoride – The final step is the cleaning procedure is treatment with fluoride in the form of a foam, gel, or rinse. The application of fluoride will help strengthen tooth enamel, the outer layer of the tooth. It helps make the enamel resistant to acid produced by bacteria, which can cause cavities.