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Basic dental care involves brushing and flossing your teeth regularly to remove plaque. Plaque is a thin film of bacteria that sticks to teeth above and below the gum line. It can build up and harden into tartar, which makes it harder to give the teeth a good cleaning. Tartar usually has to be removed by a dental hygienist.
The bacteria in plaque use sugars to make acids. These acids can damage the gums and teeth.
Be sure to see your dentist and dental hygienist for regular checkups and cleanings.
Practicing basic dental care:
Here are some common concerns people have about what might happen at the dentist's office.
If you go to the dentist regularly and take good care of your teeth, there will probably be no pain. If this is your first visit in a long time, or you do not take good care of your teeth and gums, there may be some irritation as the dentist cleans the spaces between your teeth and between your teeth and gums.
A filling is a substance that dentists use to replace a decayed or broken portion of a tooth. A filling is often needed to fix a cavity. Whether you need a filling depends on how well you take care of your teeth. If you brush and floss on a regular basis and limit how much sugar you eat, chances are you won't need a filling.
Dental X-rays can identify cavities, bone disease, and infections and help in planning orthodontic treatment. In children, they can also identify when new teeth are coming in. X-rays can help your dentist find problems at an early stage, which can save you time, money, and unneeded pain or discomfort. You and your dentist will set up an X-ray schedule based on your needs.
Experts recommend that your child's visits to a dentist start when the first primary teeth appear or by 12 months of age. Babies with dental problems caused by injury, disease, or a developmental problem should be seen by a children's (pediatric) dentist right away. If these dental problems aren't limited to the surfaces of the teeth, the baby should also be seen by a children's doctor (pediatrician) or the family doctor.
By the time your child is 6 months of age, your doctor should assess the likelihood of your child having future dental problems. This may include a dental exam of the mother and her dental history. (The condition of the mom's teeth can often predict her child's teeth.) After your first visit, schedule regular visits every 6 months or as your dentist recommends.
Your dentist will recommend how often to have routine checkups. Many people should see their dentists once or twice a year. Your dentist will check your teeth and gums for signs of tooth decay, gingivitis, and other health problems.
If you are prone to infections, or if infections are particularly dangerous for you, you may need to take antibiotics before you have some types of dental work. Talk to your dentist or doctor if you have questions about the need for antibiotics. You may need to take antibiotics if you:
Brush your teeth 2 times a day, and use a toothbrush with soft bristles. Follow these tips when you brush your teeth.
Don't scrub. Vigorous brushing can make the gums pull away from the teeth and can scratch your tooth enamel.
Pay special attention to the front teeth and all surfaces of the back teeth.
Some people think it makes their mouth feel more fresh, but there is no evidence that it will help with bad breath.
Some fluoride toothpastes also offer tartar control, which may help slow the formation of hard mineral buildup (tartar) on the teeth.
Disclosing tablets are chewable and will color any plaque left on the teeth after you brush. You can buy them at most drugstores.
Floss at least once a day. Choose the type and flavor of floss that you like best. When you floss your teeth, use either of these methods.
With either method, follow these steps for flossing.
Popping the floss in and out between the teeth without scraping won't remove much plaque. And it can hurt your gums.
A plastic flossing tool makes flossing easier. Child-size flossing tools are available for parents to use to floss their children's teeth. You can buy them at most drugstores.
If your gums bleed when you floss, the bleeding should stop as your gums get healthier and tighter next to your teeth.
Developing good dental health habits is the best way to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Along with brushing and flossing your teeth every day, there are other things you can do to keep your teeth and mouth healthy.
Using any tobacco product makes it more likely that you will have mouth cancer or gum disease. Using tobacco can also delay healing after you have a tooth pulled or other surgery on your teeth or mouth. Tobacco use also causes bad breath and stains your teeth and tongue.
It's best to start good oral health habits before permanent teeth come in. Along with brushing and flossing teeth every day, here are some other important things you can do to care for your child's teeth and gums.
If your child needs extra fluoride, the dentist may recommend a supplement or a gel or varnish that he or she would apply to your child's teeth. Use supplements only as directed. And keep them out of reach of your child. Too much fluoride can be toxic and can stain a child's teeth.
Dental sealants are made of hard plastic and protect the chewing surfaces of the back teeth from decay.
These foods include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Try to avoid foods that are high in sugar and processed carbohydrates, such as pastries, pasta, and white bread.
If your child age 6 or older has cavities, ask the dentist if your child should try mouthwash that contains fluoride. But watch to make sure that your child doesn't swallow it.
Tobacco smoke may contribute to the development of tooth decay, gum disease, and other health issues.footnote 1 As your child grows, teach him or her about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke.
Children play hard, sometimes hard enough to knock out or break a tooth.
Here are some tips for children's dental care.
Start a few days after birth, and do this until the first teeth come in.
Brush your child's teeth twice a day using a small, soft brush. If your child is younger than 3 years, ask your dentist if it's okay to use a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Use a pea-sized amount for children ages 3 to 6 years. Teach your child not to swallow the toothpaste.
You may find plastic flossing tools helpful. Talk with your dentist about the right timing and technique to floss your child's teeth and how to teach your child to floss.
Your child can learn how to brush his or her own teeth at about age 3. Children should be brushing their own teeth morning and night by age 4. But you should supervise and check for proper cleaning.
A good teaching method is to have your child brush his or teeth in the morning and you brush your child's teeth at night until your child masters the skill.
Disclosing tablets are chewable tablets that color any plaque that remains after brushing. You can get these tablets at most drugstores.
Do not give your child a mouthwash that contains alcohol. The alcohol can be harmful if swallowed.
American Dental Association (2009). ADA policy on cigarettes and other tobacco products. Available online: http://www.ada.org/news/929.aspx.
Current as of:
March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineArden Christen DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry
Current as of: March 9, 2022
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Arden Christen DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry
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