FAQ

Teeth and Gum Care

With proper care, your teeth and gums can stay healthy throughout your life. The healthier your teeth and gums are, the less risk you have for tooth decay and gum disease.

Teeth and Gum Care

With proper care, your teeth and gums can stay healthy throughout your life. The healthier your teeth and gums are, the less risk you have for tooth decay and gum disease.

How Should I Care for My Teeth and Gums?

There are four basic steps to caring for teeth and gums:

Brushing
Flossing
Eating right
Visiting the dentist

Tips for Brushing Your Teeth and Gums

Brush teeth and gums at least twice a day. If you can, brush after every meal. Brushing removes plaque, a film of bacteria that clings to teeth. When bacteria in plaque come into contact with food, they produce acids. These acids lead to cavities. To brush:

Place a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste on the head of the toothbrush. (Use a soft toothbrush.)
Place the toothbrush against the teeth at a 45-degree angle to the gum line.
Move the brush across the teeth using a small circular motion. Continue with this motion cleaning one tooth at a time. Keep the tips of the bristles against the gum line. Avoid pressing so hard that the bristles lie flat against the teeth. (Only the tips of the toothbrush clean the teeth.) Let the bristles reach into spaces between teeth.
Brush across the top of the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Make sure the bristles get into the groves and crevices.
Use the same small circular motion to clean the backside of the upper and lower teeth -- the side that faces the tongue.
To clean the inside of the bottom front teeth, angle the head in an up-and-down position toward the bottom inside of the mouth and move the toothbrush in a small circle.
For the inside of the top front teeth, angle the brush in an up-and-down position with the tip of the head pointing towards the roof of the mouth. Move the toothbrush in a small circle.
Give your tongue a few gentle brush strokes, brushing from the back of your tongue forward. Do not scrub. This helps remove bacteria and freshens your breath.
After brushing your teeth for two to three minutes, rinse your mouth with water.
Replace your toothbrush with a new one every three to four months.

Tips for Flossing Your Teeth

Floss your teeth once a day. Flossing gets rid of food and plaque between the teeth, where your toothbrush cannot reach. If plaque stays between teeth, it can harden into tartar, which must be removed by a dentist. To floss:

Remove about an 18-inch strip of floss from the dispenser.
Wind the floss around the middle fingers of each hand, leaving a 1-inch section open for flossing. Floss the top teeth first, then the bottom.
Place the floss in your mouth and use your index fingers to push the floss between the teeth. Be careful not to push too hard and injure the gums.
Move the floss up and down against the tooth and up and around the gum line. The floss should form a C-shape around the tooth as you floss.
Floss between each tooth as well as behind the back teeth.
Use a clean section of floss as needed and take up used floss by winding it around the fingers.

Also, antibacterial mouth rinses (there are fluoride mouth rinses as well) can reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease, according to the American Dental Association.

Dental Health and Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Most people probably grind and clench their teeth from time to time. Occasional teeth grinding, medically called bruxism, does not usually cause harm, but when teeth grinding occurs on a regular basis the teeth can be damaged and other oral health complications can arise.

Why Do People Grind Their Teeth?

Although teeth grinding can be caused by stress and anxiety, it often occurs during sleep and is more likely caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth.

How Do I Find Out if I Grind My Teeth?

Because grinding often occurs during sleep, most people are unaware that they grind their teeth. However, a dull, constant headache or sore jaw is a telltale symptom of bruxism. Many times people learn that they grind their teeth by their loved one who hears the grinding at night.

If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist. He or she can examine your mouth and jaw for signs of bruxism, such as jaw tenderness and abnormalities in your teeth.

Why Is Teeth Grinding Harmful?

In some cases, chronic teeth grinding can result in a fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. The chronic grinding may wear their teeth down to stumps. When these events happen, bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, partial dentures, and even complete dentures may be needed.

Not only can severe grinding damage teeth and result in tooth loss, it can also affect your jaws, result in hearing loss, cause or worsen TMD/TMJ, and even change the appearance of your face.

What Can I Do to Stop Grinding My Teeth?

Your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard to protect your teeth from grinding during sleep.

If stress is causing you to grind your teeth, ask your doctor or dentist about options to reduce your stress. Attending stress counseling, starting an exercise program, seeing a physical therapist, or obtaining a prescription for muscle relaxants are among some of the options that may be offered.

Other tips to help you stop teeth grinding include:

Avoid or cut back on foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as colas, chocolate, and coffee.
Avoid alcohol. Grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption.
Do not chew on pencils or pens or anything that is not food. Avoid chewing gum as it allows your jaw muscles to get more used to clenching and makes you more likely to grind your teeth.
Train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth. If you notice that you clench or grind during the day, position the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This practice trains your jaw muscles to relax.
Relax your jaw muscles at night by holding a warm washcloth against your cheek in front of your earlobe.

What You Can Do About Bad Breath

Worried about bad breath? You're not alone. Forty million Americans suffer from bad breath, or halitosis, according to the American Dental Hygienists' Association. Bad breath can get in the way of your social life. It can make you self-conscious and embarrassed. Fortunately, there are simple and effective ways to freshen your breath.

1. Brush and floss more frequently.

One of the prime causes of bad breath is plaque, the sticky build-up on teeth that harbors bacteria. Food left between teeth adds to the problem. All of us should brush at least twice a day and floss daily. If you're worried about your breath, brush and floss a little more often. But don't overdo it. Brushing too aggressively can erode enamel, making your teeth more vulnerable to decay.

2. Scrape your tongue.

The coating that normally forms on the tongue can harbor foul-smelling bacteria. To eliminate them, gently brush your tongue with your toothbrush. Some people find that toothbrushes are too big to comfortably reach the back of the tongue. In that case, try a tongue scraper. "Tongue scrapers are an essential tool in a proper oral health care routine," says Pamela L. Quinones, RDH, president of the American Dental Hygienists' Association. "They're designed specifically to apply even pressure across the surface of the tongue area, removing bacteria, food debris, and dead cells that brushing alone can’t remove."

3. Avoid foods that sour your breath.

Onions and garlic are the prime offenders. "Unfortunately, brushing after you eat onions or garlic doesn't help," says dentist Richard Price, DMD, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. "The volatile substances they contain make their way into your blood stream and travel to your lungs, where you breathe them out." The only way to avoid the problem is to avoid eating onions and garlic, especially before social or work occasions when you're concerned about your breath.

4. Kick the habit.

Bad breath is just one of many reasons not to smoke. Smoking damages gum tissue and stains teeth. It also increases your risk of oral cancer. Over-the-counter nicotine patches can help tame the urge to smoke. If you need a little help, make an appointment to talk to your doctor about prescription medications or smoking cessation programs that can help you give up tobacco for good.

5. Rinse your mouth out.

In addition to freshening your breath, anti-bacterial mouthwashes add extra protection by reducing plaque-causing bacteria. After eating, swishing your mouth with plain water also helps freshen your breath by eliminating food particles.

6. Skip after-dinner mints and chew gum instead.

Sugary candies promote the growth of bacteria in your mouth and add to bad breath problems. Instead, chew sugarless gum. "Gum stimulates saliva, which is the mouth’s natural defense mechanism against plaque acids which cause tooth decay and bad breath," Q

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

What Is Baby Bottle Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay in infants and very young children is often referred to as baby bottle tooth decay. Baby bottle tooth decay happens when sweetened liquids or those with natural sugars (like milk, formula, and fruit juice) cling to an infant's teeth for a long time. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on this sugar and make acids that attack the teeth.

At risk are children whose pacifiers are frequently dipped in sugar or syrup. Giving an infant a sugary drink at nap time or nighttime is particularity harmful, as the flow of saliva decreases during sleep.

Although baby bottle tooth decay typically happens in the upper front teeth, other teeth may also be affected.

Think baby teeth are temporary, and therefore, not important? Think again. Baby teeth are necessary for chewing, speaking, and smiling. They also serve as placeholders for the adult teeth. If baby bottle tooth decay is left untreated, pain and infection can result. Severely decayed teeth may need to be removed.

If teeth are infected or lost too early due to baby bottle tooth decay, your child may develop poor eating habits, speech problems, crooked teeth, and damaged adult teeth. In addition, the chances that adult teeth will end up being crooked are greatly increased.

The good news is that a few simple steps can help stave off baby bottle tooth decay. They include implementing good oral hygiene at an early age. Here's how:

Wipe the baby's gums with a clean gauze pad or washcloth after each feeding.
Begin brushing your child's teeth, without toothpaste, when his or her first tooth comes in.
Clean and massage gums in areas without teeth.
Floss once all the baby teeth have come in.
Make sure your child is getting enough fluoride, which helps lessen cavities. If your local water supply does not contain fluoride, ask your dentist or doctor how your child should get it.
Schedule regular dental visits by your child's first birthday. Dentists also offer special sealant coatings, which can help prevent tooth decay in children.

Other techniques to help prevent baby bottle tooth decay:

Don't fill bottles with sugar water and soft drinks. Bottles are for milk, water, formula, and special electrolyte-containing solutions when the child has diarrhea. Juices, mixed half and half with water to avoid empty calories, are a way to interest your child in a "sippy cup." Soft drinks are not recommended for children, as they have no nutritional value.
Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing anything but water.
Never give your child a pacifier dipped in anything sweet.
Reduce the sugar in your child's diet less, especially between meals.

It's never too late to break bad habits. If your child drinks sweetened liquids from the bottle and/or sleeps with a bottle, break the habit now and cut the risk of baby bottle tooth decay by:

Gradually diluting the bottle contents with water over 2 to 3 weeks.
Once that period is over, fill the bottle only with water.

Remember that healthy baby teeth will lead to healthy permanent teeth.

Your Child's First Visit to the Dentist

It is generally recommended that a child be seen by a dentist by the age of 1 or within 6 months after his or her first tooth comes in.

Your Child's First Visit to the Dentist

What Happens at the First Dental Visit?

The first dental visit is usually short and involves very little treatment. This visit gives your child an opportunity to meet the dentist in a non-threatening and friendly way. Some dentists may ask the parent to sit in the dental chair and hold their child during the examination. The parent may also be asked to wait in the reception area during part of the visit so that a relationship can be built between your child and your dentist.

During the exam, your dentist will check all of your child's existing teeth for decay, examine your child's bite, and look for any potential problems with the gums, jaw, and oral tissues. If indicated, the dentist or hygienist will clean any teeth and assess the need for fluoride. He or she will also educate parents about oral health care basics for children and discuss dental developmental issues and answer any questions.

Topics your dentist may discuss with you might include:

Good oral hygiene practices for your child's teeth and gums and cavity prevention
Fluoride needs
Oral habits (thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, lip sucking)
Developmental milestones
Teething
Proper nutrition
Schedule of dental checkups. Many dentists like to see children every 6 months to build up the child's comfort and confidence level in visiting the dentist, to monitor the development of the teeth, and promptly treat any developing problems.

You will be asked to complete medical and health information forms concerning the child during the first visit. Come prepared with the necessary information.

What's the Difference Between a Pediatric Dentist and a Regular Dentist?

A pediatric dentist has at least two additional years of training beyond dental school. The additional training focuses on management and treatment of a child's developing teeth, child behavior, physical growth and development, and the special needs of children's dentistry. Although either type of dentist is capable of addressing your child's oral health care needs, a pediatric dentist, his or her staff, and even the office décor are all geared to care for children and to put them at ease. If your child has special needs, care from a pediatric dentist should be considered. Ask your dentist or your child's doctor what he or she recommends for your child.

When Should Children Get Their First Dental X-Ray?

There are no rules for when to start dental X-rays. Some children who may be at higher risk for dental problems (for example, those prone to baby bottle tooth decay or those with cleft lip/palate) should have X-rays taken earlier than others. Usually, most children will have had X-rays taken by the age of 5 or 6. As children begin to get their adult teeth around the age of 6, X-rays play an important role in helping your dentist to see if all of the adult teeth are growing in the jaw, to look for bite problems, and to determine if teeth are clean and healthy.

Tooth Development in Children

Find out when your child will begin to develop primary teeth, molars, and permanent teeth.

our child's primary teethcamera usually begin to break through the gums (erupt) at about 6 months of age. For more information, see the topic Teething.

Teething may be painful. Letting your child chew on a clean, chilled teething ring can help relieve his or her pain.
Teeth break through the gums in a certain order, typically from the front to the back of the mouth.
Lower teeth often appear 1 to 2 months before the corresponding upper teeth.
A change in the order in which the teeth come in may indicate a problem, such as an infection or not enough space for the tooth to grow.
All of a child's first 20 primary teeth should come in between the ages of 6 months and 3 years.
Girls' teeth come in a little earlier than do boys' teeth.

Your child's first permanent molars emerge from the gum behind the primary teeth at about age 6, at the same time he or she begins to lose front primary teeth.

Children lose their 20 primary teeth between the ages of 6 and 11 years.
Sometimes a permanent tooth will begin to come in before a child loses the primary tooth. This usually is not a problem unless the primary tooth is not loose. In that case, a dentist will need to remove the primary tooth.
A child's front permanent teethcamera may angle away from the center and look crooked. This is normal, and the teeth should straighten out naturally as the other permanent teeth come in.
After the permanent teeth have replaced the primary teeth, the child's last molars will come in (four second molars and four wisdom teeth). This takes place sometime during ages 12 to 21.
Sometimes wisdom teeth do not come in properly and need to be removed.

Normally, a person should end up with 32 adult teeth

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