Keeping Your Teeth Clean at Home
One of the most important things you can do for your oral and overall health, keeping your teeth clean between dental visits will help protect against tooth decay and gum disease. Dr. Eshom feels that his patients should know the correct way to clean their teeth at home, to avoid damaging enamel or missing an area of the mouth.
When brushing your teeth at home, be sure to use a brush with soft bristles, and avoid using too much pressure. Excess pressure or hard bristles will damage the enamel of the teeth, leaving them vulnerable to bacteria.
While you should try to brush after every meal, do not do it right away. Whenever possible, wait about 30 minutes after eating before brushing your teeth. The acids in the food and beverages you consume weaken the enamel, making it vulnerable to abrasion if you brush too soon.
You have probably heard that you should brush your teeth for at least two minutes. Unfortunately, most people concentrate on one or two areas during that two minutes. Dr. Eshom recommends dividing the mouth into quadrants, like upper left, lower right, etc. Spend 30 seconds on each quadrant, and you’ll hit your two-minute goal, while cleaning your entire mouth. For patients who prefer electronic toothbrushes, many newer models will buzz every 30 seconds, alerting you to switch to another quadrant.
What Happens During a Professional Dental Cleaning?
Your cleaning will take place during your regular dental checkup. Before Dr. Eshom performs your dental exam, one of our hygienists Lori or Pam, will perform your cleaning. A dental cleaning, or prophylaxis, involves the removal of plaque, tartar, and stains from the teeth.
Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria and sugars, causes cavities and gum disease. If not removed daily through brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into tartar, or calculus. Even those who brush and floss regularly will experience some buildup of plaque and tartar around the gums and in between teeth.
The hygienist will begin the cleaning by using a hooked instrument, called a scaler, to gently remove plaque and tartar deposits from the surface of your teeth and around your gum line. She will then polish your teeth with an abrasive paste.
This will remove minor stains from your teeth, and provide a smooth surface on your teeth, making it difficult for bacteria to gather there. Dr. Eshom typically recommends a fluoride treatment after your cleaning, to help strengthen the enamel of your teeth and guard them against attacks from decay.
Scaling and Root Planing
Sometimes, the hygienist discovers pockets between the gums and teeth during the cleaning. If she finds these pockets, a sign of periodontal disease, she may need to do a deeper cleaning to remove plaque from under the gum line and on the roots of the teeth.
Scaling and root planing work together as a non-surgical treatment for gum disease. The treatment allows for the healthy regeneration of gum tissue through careful cleaning and smoothing of the tooth roots. During the scaling procedure, the hygienist will use the scaler to scrape tartar from the tooth roots above and below the gum line. Root planing involves smoothing out the rough spots on your tooth roots where germs tend to gather, helping to eliminate harmful bacteria. These procedures take a little longer, and may require a separate appointment.
If you have not visited the dentist in a while, you may have a greater buildup of plaque and tartar than other patients. Sometimes the deposits of plaque and tartar prevent the doctor from accurately determining the presence of decay or gum disease. In this case, you may require a full mouth debridement.
This procedure will feel very similar to a regular cleaning, with the hygienist using a scaler to remove the plaque and tartar. The number of plaque and tartar deposits present, however, will make this a much longer procedure, and in some cases, we may have to move your examination to a separate visit after the debridement.
Call Us Today
To learn more about the importance of keeping your teeth clean, or to schedule an appointment, contact our San Diego dental office today.