October - November 2006
hygiene is very important for overall health and well-being.
It also plays a major role in the transmission of body
language on a social level too. You must care for your teeth
throughout your life in order for your teeth to be at its
best and your breath to be fresh.
Teeth are very responsive to their environment and contain
incisors (biting teeth), molars (grind and break down food)
and wisdom teeth (no clear purpose). Each tooth consists of
enamel (hard, no living cells), dentine and pulp cavity
(contains a network of nerves giving teeth its sensitivity).
Plaque is one of the greatest threats to oral health. Plaque
is a sticky substance containing millions of bacteria. This
forms when sugar in your diet reacts with plaque bacteria to
form an acid. This acid then reacts with the calcium in your
enamel, forming decay holes. This needs to be filled by your
dentist. If your oral hygiene is inadequate, then plaque
bacteria multiplies and a condition called gingivitis may
occur (inflammation of the gum where it meets the tooth).
This condition can be recognised if bleeding occurs when
brushing your teeth. If this occurs, it is important to
brush your teeth gently twice daily. If this condition
persists, it is important to visit a dentist, as this
condition can lead to periodintitis (inflammation spreading
to the tooth socket, causing loss of the tooth).
Bad breath is a common problem which often comes from the
activity of bacteria in the mouth. This bacteria forms
especially on the tongue, therefore a tongue scraper is the
best tool to use to combat this condition. It is a
disposable U-shaped plastic tool with tiny ridges on the
side which is very easy to use and it will help clear away
any left-over food and odor-causing bacteria that have
settled on your tongue. Starting at the back of your mouth,
gently drag the scraper two or three times, rinsing it
between each pass. Follow up by drinking a glass of water to
rinse out any remaining bacteria in your mouth.
Regular, effective brushing of the teeth is the mainstay of
a healthy oral care routine. Once in the morning and once in
the evening before going to bed will keep oral enemies at
bay. The routine for effective tooth brushing are as
-Tooth brushing should be at least three minutes long.
-Initial brushing should be with small circular movements,
with the brush at a 45 degree angle to the teeth
-Teeth should be cleaned vertically, not from left to right
(this can damage the gums), to clear away the plaque.
-Take care to brush the inside surfaces as well, which is
Toothbrushes with soft or medium brushes are recommended and
it is essential not to share your toothbrush with any other
person (viruses can be spread this way). Toothbrushes should
be replaced every three months or when the bristles of the
brush are getting damaged. Fluoride is an important
ingredient which is need in your toothpaste, as it
encourages the uptake of calcium to demineralised enamel.
Flossing is important for oral health because it removes
food matter that accumulates between the gaps in your teeth.
If it is left there, it decomposes and causes bad breath.
Mouthwash is also an essential part of oral health
maintenance. It can be effective against bad breath,
stubborn food particles and generally refreshes the mouth.
Chewing gum after eating stimulates saliva production which
neutralises the acid in the mouth. Ensure that the chewing
gum is sugar-free.
For those with discoloured teeth, professional bleaching by
a cosmetic dentist is a way to achieve bright white teeth.
For mildly discoloured teeth, whitening formulas are often
effective (which are non-peroxide whitening systems).
Straightening out teeth:
If your teeth are particularly crooked, orthodontic
treatment can help. For teeth that are only marginally
crooked, porcelain veneers can be applied to even out the
tooth line. Veneers can also be used to fill a gap between
the front teeth, to regulate a discoloured tooth, to correct
a chipped tooth or create a straighter finish to teeth that
require slight re-alignment. Veneers are rarely available on
the NHS and are expensive.
Remember your smile is one of your most beautiful natural
assets, now you know how to perfect it!
More articles by Shashi Gossain B.Sc (Hons), MRPS, Member
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