Dental hygienists play an important role in helping you maintain your smile. Thanks to their training and clinical expertise, these dental professionals are an excellent source of information about a variety of dental topics. The next time you visit the dentist's office for a cleaning, ask the hygienist these three questions.
Am I brushing and flossing correctly?
Brushing and flossing is essential to good oral health, but poor technique can actually damage your teeth and gums. Do you brush your teeth very forcefully? Applying too much pressure when you brush can wear away your enamel, the outer layer of your teeth. Once the enamel erodes, your teeth may become sensitive to hot or cold temperatures, which can make drinking cold water or eating piping hot pizza a painful experience.
Enamel erosion can also increase your risk of tooth decay. Once breaks occur in the enamel, it's much easier for bacteria to enter your teeth and cause cavities. If your enamel is eroded, you may notice that your teeth look yellower. The problem occurs when the naturally yellow dentin layer under the enamel is exposed. Other signs of erosion include small depressions in your teeth and chips and cracks.
Brushing your teeth too hard may also cause receding gums, which not only increases your risk of sensitivity, but may also lead to gum disease. If gum recession is severe, deep pockets may form around the teeth. The pockets become infected with bacteria, which can damage your teeth and your jawbone.
Following these brushing and flossing tips can help you avoid enamel erosion and gum recession:
- Choose a toothbrush with a soft head, and apply gentle pressure when you brush.
- Hold the brush head at a 45 degree angle and use small, circular motions to clean each tooth individually.
- Brush in the morning and evening to reduce plaque on your teeth.
- Floss once a day to remove plaque from the areas between teeth.
- Move the floss gently up and down between your teeth. Before you move on to the next two teeth, gently floss the base of the tooth at the gumline.
How Can I Keep My Teeth Healthy?
Your dental hygienist can offer several tips that will help you keep your smile bright and healthy, such as:
- Make Smart Food Selections. A well-balanced diet is essential to good oral and general health. Foods high in vitamin C naturally fight damage to your body's cells that can be caused by dangerous molecules called free radicals. When you include oranges, strawberries, cauliflower, summer squash and other vitamin C-rich foods in your diet, you'll reduce your risk of gum disease due to the effects of free radicals. Foods high in calcium, such as fortified orange juice, milk, yogurt and spinach, help keep your teeth strong.
- Use Appropriate Tools. Have you ever ripped open a package with your teeth because there were no scissors nearby? Using your teeth as a tool puts enormous pressure on them and can cause them to crack or fracture. Keep your teeth strong by using the right tools for the job and avoid very hard foods, such as nuts or thick, hard pretzels.
- Don't Skip Dental Appointments. You never know when you'll develop a cavity. If you skip a dental appointment, you'll miss the opportunity to treat the cavity when it's still a relatively minor problem. The longer you wait, the more extensive the damage will be.
What Can I Do About Bad Breath?
Do you go through an entire package of breath mints in a day or two, yet still feel that your breath isn't fresh? Your dental hygienist can help you figure out why you have bad breath by asking these questions:
- Do You Brush Your Tongue? Bacteria on your tongue can contribute to bad breath. Brushing your tongue every time you brush your teeth will reduce the bacteria and keep your breath fresher.
- Do You Use Mouthwash That Contains Alcohol? Alcohol tends to dry your mouth, which can worsen bad breath. Switching to an alcohol-free product can reduce odor.
- Do Your Gums Bleed When You Brush Your Teeth? Bleeding gums can be a sign of gingivitis, the early form of gum disease. Gingivitis is often accompanied by bad breath. Treating gingivitis, either by improving your oral hygiene or with a deep cleaning, will help your breath stay fresher longer.
Dental hygienists work closely with dentists and can provide valuable advice that will help you keep your smile sparkling. Are you due for a cleaning and an exam? Call us today and we'll help you schedule a convenient appointment time.
Colgate: Top 10 Dental Questions You Should Ask
Mayo Clinic: Bad Breath
American Dental Association: Gum Disease