In honor of dental hygienist everywhere, October is National Dental Hygiene Month. This became official in 2009 thanks to the American Dental Hygienist’s Association (ADHA) and Wrigley.
This month is to encourage oral health. No one likes a dirty mouth, especially our own and now we have mask breath. ( Please check CDC & WHO websites for current updates). To keep those bacteria at bay, we need to maintain our oral health. Not practicing proper dental hygiene puts you at risk for tooth decay and gum disease. (Celebrities with bad teeth).
Go out and buy a new toothbrush (order through Amazon and be safe) celebrate! It can be fun for a bit. The American Dental Association recommends the soft bristles.
Interesting fact, China invented first bristle brush during the 15th century. The first of its kind in the U.S., Fones School of Dental Hygiene, opened their doors in 1913 in Bridgeport.
The Dental Hygienist Role
The dental hygienist plays an important role in our oral health. They work closely with the dentist, as a licensed dental professional. Not only do they clean your teeth, examine your mouth and gums for signs of infection (gingivitis) or tooth decay, the dental hygienist educates us on how important it is to practice good oral health habits, keeping our mouth happy and healthy.
Bacteria are always present in the mouth and can grow in larger groups becoming plaque. This can cause the tooth enamel to breakdown, leading to cavities. Tooth decay is preventable and visits include:
- A health history review
- Dental x-rays
- Removing plaque from the surface of your teeth
- Sealants and fluoride treatments applied to teeth providing help against decay and lowers the risk for cavities
- Demonstrates the correct way to brush and floss at home
Your dental insurance will cover these preventative dental care services at no cost to you. It’s important to inform your dentist or dental hygienist if you have any tooth pain or bleeding gums which may be common dental problems or tooth infection symptoms. This can help in detecting a more serious dental disease in its early stages which may be easier and less expensive to treat.
You should also be provided with an oral cancer screening during your dental exam. This should be done at least once a year, even if you are missing teeth.
What the Dental Team Looks for
- Thickening, crusty or hardened spots on the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, face or neck
- Red or white patches on the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, face or neck
- Abnormal lumps or bumps on the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, face or neck
Dental Hygiene Basics
Use a fluoride toothpaste. Brushing for two minutes is recommended. Most of us brush first thing in the morning and last thing at night, this is the minimum. It is also a good idea to brush after each meal if you can. Plaque is sticky and takes some work to remove.
For the best brushing angle, hold at a 45-degree tilt. Without being too rough, gently move your toothbrush back and forth. Brush inside, outside, top and bottom. Including the tongue where loads of bacteria live (especially a piercing if you have one) and inside of cheeks.
Use an oral irrigator (aka dental water jet or water flosser). A great chose for those with orthodontic appliances like crowns, bridges and implants. It uses a stream of pressurized, pulsating water which cleans between teeth and below the gum line. Some brands you may be able to add your mouthwash, check the manufactures instructions. Some people prefer an electric toothbrush.
Floss daily. There are things your toothbrush may not remove, like when you use your toner to remove remaining makeup (if you wear), there are food particles that can collect or get caught between teeth. Flossing gets in these crevices, clearing plaque, were teeth touch preventing bacteria from attaching and causing other problems.
Rinse with Mouthwash. Mouthwash is another item considered optional for oral hygiene. According to dental hygienist, this shouldn’t be. As a final step in your routine, rinse after you brush and floss with mouthwash daily. The antimicrobial rinse helps to keep your mouth clean and present a pleasant breath.
However, a mouthwash containing alcohol will cause drying. You might want to find a non-alcohol rinse or some swish with oil (also called pulling).
Some medications cause a side effect of dry mouth, or you may get frequent mouth sores so avoid alcohol. There are now different products to choose from; cavity protection, antibacterial and even moisturizing mouthwashes. You may also benefit on inquiring your dental team about a prescription mouthwash if you are prone to cavities or have an active gum infection.
Visit your dentist. The ADA recommends visiting your dentist at least twice a year for your exam and professional cleaning. Your dental team will suggest additional cleanings if necessary. Those who have full mouth dentures should visit once a year for an oral cancer screening and exam.
Proper brushing and flossing should not cause bleeding; this is an indicator for inflammation. The presence of bacteria will cause blood to form under the surface of your gums leading to swelling. The only time bleeding would occur during cleaning is when an infection is under the surface. If you are taking blood thinners, you are prone to bleed easily.
- Sensitive teeth
- Sore or tired jaw
The chances are your grinding or clenching your teeth while you sleep. You may have no symptoms but it shows on your teeth as chipped teeth, flat teeth, the enamel is cracked, chips by the gum line, receded gum line, sensitive teeth and bone loss. The purchase of an over the counter night guard can be worn temporarily. Your dentist may also evaluate and fit you for a custom appliance.
Think about what you put in. Drinking water will keep teeth clean and strong. It is important to stay hydrated for the health of your teeth and gums. Limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks. Heavy alcohol drinkers or those using tobacco products account for about 70% diagnosed with oral cancer.
If you really want a clean mouth, you should use a tongue scraper aka tongue cleaner. I bought mine through Banyan Botanicals a couple years ago for $7.99.
Tongue scraping and Ayurveda go way back in time. As we sleep the body processes everything ingested during the day. Toxins (ama) form and occur as a coating on our tongue. By scraping this coating off at the beginning of the day we prevent the reabsorption of these toxins that the body worked so hard to expel.
Basically, what you do is run it forward over the tongue. Be careful not to put it back too far by your throat, this will cause a gag reflex. The tongue scraper is steel so it won’t rust or it also can be plastic.
Once run over the tongue your scraper will have saliva under it, rinse off and repeat again. I was amazed how my sense of taste improved. You can also use it after meals.
With tooth brushing you aren’t continually removing toxins, it’s more like your brushing them around and then you spit. A tongue scraper is more effective.
Benefits of Tongue Scraping
Improve your sense of taste. There is research on using a tongue scraper twice daily and how this may improve your ability to distinguish between bitter, sour, sweet and salty sensations.
Tongue looks better. The buildup of debris can leave a white or color coating on the tongue. Tongue scraping can remove this and on a daily bases can prevent the coating from coming back.
Remove bacteria. A study from 2005 found that using a tongue scraper two times a day for a week reduced the number of Mutants streptococci and Lactobacilli bacteria in the mouth (a good reason to get kids on this routine). These are known to cause bad breath and dental decay.
Oral health effects. Taking away the bacteria is key to preventing cavities, gum disease and other conditions having to do with the mouth.
Take away bad breath. It can’t replace brushing your teeth but a study by researchers in 2004 found tongue scraping to be more effective versus brushing in removing bacteria that causes odors.
Talking about bad breath (halitosis), now while we are wearing a mask during COVID-19 (please check CDC & WHO websites for current updates) the occurrence of bad breath can increase. Not noticing it before it may be slapping you in the face now because of the mask holding your breath in.
Dryness of the mouth. In wearing a mask many people may be breathing through their mouth instead of the nose. They also tend to breathe faster. By mouth breathing dryness can occur and present bad breath. When the mouth is dry, there is little saliva to wash away food and keep oral tissues moisten.
Oil from foods. Haven’t we all been near someone who has eaten garlic or onions? Yeah, cheese or drinking juice or other sugary beverages can also cause smelly breath.
Food particles. Food we eat can leave particles between teeth or under the gums. These need to be removed daily through brushing and flossing, otherwise they combine with bacteria in the mouth. This leads to tooth decay or even periodontal disease. Both can cause smelly breath, like rotten eggs.
For tongue piercings. You will want to pay special attention to this area because bacteria Streptococcus oralis and Eikenella corrodens commonly grow on the surface of tongue piercings causing odors.
Your mouth can tell stories of your overall health, take care of it.
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https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/tongue-scraping accessed 10/10/2020
https://blogs.oncolink.org/2020/10/october-is-national-dental-hygiene-month/ accessed 10/10/2020