Dental hygiene, also known as oral hygiene, is the process by which preventative dental care is provided to avoid dental emergencies. At the core of dental hygiene is the in-home dental care regimen you perform.
Tooth brushing is fundamentally important, though it alone will not remove the calculus (also called tartar or dental plaque) that builds up over time. Calculus must be removed to lower your risk of toothaches, cavities, periodontal disease or even the loss of all your teeth. By removing calculus, you can reduce your chances of needing root canals, tooth extractions, dental bridges, crowns and more.
Getting to the Root of Dental Hygiene
Over time, calculus builds up on the teeth. If calculus forms below the gum line, bacteria can invade and create a host of other dental problems. Furthermore, the surfaces and areas between the teeth and under the gum line must be maintained and treated on a regular basis in order to ensure proper dental hygiene. These areas are impossible for you to examine yourself; they require a professional touch.
Dental hygienists are often responsible for performing professional tooth cleaning, scraping hardened plaque (tartar), removing calculus deposits, taking X-rays, identifying changes in the bite (occlusion), investigating components that relate to the bone and setting up the nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) that is used, when necessary, to relax people requiring more invasive treatment.
Your dentist then works with your hygienist by further examining the teeth, mouth and gums to provide any necessary treatment for tooth decay or gum disease. Regular dental visits are critical at any age for the maintenance of dental hygiene. The American Dental Association recommends that patients visit with their dentist and dental hygienist a minimum of two times each year to maintain proper dental hygiene.
Gum disease — also known as periodontal disease and periodontitis — is an inflammatory condition affecting the tissues surrounding a tooth, and is the leading cause of tooth loss. Gingivitis is a bacterial infection of the tissues in the mouth and potential precursor of gum disease.
Once gum disease sets in, the toxins produced by the bacteria damage the teeth’s connective tissue and bone, effectively destroying them and fostering tooth loss.
The Signs of Gum Disease
As a gum infection progresses, the bone tends to recede; the gums may or may not recede. In some cases, the root of the tooth becomes exposed, occasionally causing tooth sensitivity. Furthermore, pus may be produced, and pockets may form between the gum and tooth.
Since bone recession is not visible to the naked eye, and if left undetected, may contribute to tooth loss, it is important to visit Dr. Gorman for professional examinations and dental cleanings to identify gum disease.
Here are some common signs of gum disease you and our office can look for:
Bleeding gums during tooth brushing or otherwise.
Sensitive, red or swollen gums.
teeth that are loose or appear to have shifted.
Causes of Gum Disease
There are a number of causes of gum disease, each of which can be corrected and controlled. The causes of gum disease include:
Improper Dental Hygiene: If plaque is not removed through daily dental hygiene practices and regular professional dental cleanings, bacteria may set in and cause gingivitis, which may eventually result in gum disease.
Organic Changes in the Mouth: Changes that occur in metabolism and hormone levels during pregnancy, puberty and menopause may affect the organic balance in the mouth, and make teeth more susceptible to gum disease.
Medical Conditions: Serious conditions that affect the body’s ability to produce sugar (such as diabetes or kidney disease) may contribute to periodontal disease. Furthermore, the Center for Disease Control has found an association between certain illnesses (including diabetes, stroke and heart attack) and gum disease. Finally, medications used to treat medical conditions may produce the overgrowth of gums. Overgrown gums are more susceptible to bacteria, and therefore gum disease.
Saliva Flow Inhibitors: Certain medications that produce oral side effects or dry mouth syndrome (xerostomia) may contribute to a reduction of protective saliva flow, and potentially to gum disease. Seniors may be more susceptible to dry mouth syndrome because of the natural reduction of salivary flow associated with age.
Poor Functional Habits: Teeth grinding or clenching may impair the surrounding tissue and is a possible contributor to gum disease.
At our office, we use OralDNA LabsTM laboratory services to ensure we are giving our patients the best oral health information possible. OralDNA LabsTM is a specialty diagnostics company designed to provide reliable, definitive and cost effective clinical tests that guide oral health professionals in detecting and prognosing disease at an earlier, more treatable stage.