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Oral Hygiene

oral hygiene


Good oral hygiene helps to prevent dental problems - mainly plaque and calculus which are the main causes of gum disease and caries. Good oral hygiene may also help to prevent or delay dental erosion. Dental plaque is a soft whitish deposit that forms on the surface of teeth. It forms when bacteria (germs) combine with food and saliva. Calculus, sometimes called tartar, is hardened calcified plaque. It sticks firmly to teeth.

Caries is when holes form in parts of the enamel of a tooth. A main cause of caries is due to a build-up of plaque. The bacteria in the plaque react with sugars and starches in food to form acids. The acids are kept next to the teeth by the sticky plaque and dissolve the tooth enamel.

Gum disease

Gum disease means infection or inflammation of the tissues that surround the teeth. Most cases of gum disease are plaque-related. Depending on the severity, gum disease is generally divided into two types - gingivitis and periodontitis:
Gingivitis means inflammation of the gums.
Periodontitis occurs if gingivitis becomes worse and progresses to involve the tissue that joins the teeth to the gums.

Tooth (dental) erosion

Tooth erosion is a common problem. It is the gradual erosion of tooth enamel by the action of acid on the teeth. Tooth erosion affects the entire surface of the tooth.

Routine oral hygiene

Teeth brushing
Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Use a soft-tufted brush and a toothpaste that contains fluoride. The head of the brush should be small enough to get into all the areas of the mouth. Spend at least two minutes brushing, covering all areas (the inside, outside, and biting areas of each tooth). Pay particular attention to where the teeth meet the gum. Get a new toothbrush every 3-4 months.

Cleaning between teeth
Clean between your teeth after brushing once a day, but ideally twice a day. This is to remove plaque from between teeth. Dental floss is commonly used to do this. However, some studies suggest that small interdental brushes may do a better job than floss.
The gums may bleed a little when you first begin to clean between your teeth. This should settle in a few days. If it persists then see a dentist, as regular bleeding may indicate gum disease.

Food and drink

  • Sugars and sugary foods in the mouth are the main foods that bacteria thrive on to make acid which can contribute to tooth decay.
  • Limit the amount of sugary foods and drinks that you have.
  • Try to reduce the amount of acid in contact with your teeth.
  • Drink any acid drinks, such as fizzy drinks and fruit juices, quickly - don't swish them around your mouth or hold them in your mouth for any period of time.
  • Brush your teeth at least an hour after eating or drinking anything - especially acidic foods and drinks.

Other things you can do

  • Many people also use an antiseptic mouthwash each day to help prevent gum disease.
  • Many people also clean their tongue after cleaning their teeth.
  • If you smoke, you should aim to stop smoking.
  • If children need medicines, wherever possible use sugar-free medicines.
  • Some people chew sugar-free gum after each meal.

Children should be taught good oral hygiene as young as possible.


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