Dental health always begins in the dental hygienist’s chair at your dental office. Dental hygiene is the most talked-about aspect of your oral health by the doctor and hygienist. A good and competent dental office obsesses about a patients’ oral health. ot only do we talk about you when you’re not here but we describe gum conditions OF EACH TOOTH IN 6 DIFFERENT LOCATIONS. We then create a map of the bone and gum level of the upper and lower jaws. This enables your hygienist to target specific areas with pinpoint accuracy rather than a shotgun approach.
Why this maniacal preoccupation with oral health? Because there are about 700 types of bacteria found in your mouth. Read that previous sentence again. THERE ARE 700 TYPES OF BACTERIA IN YOUR MOUTH! They live mostly in the space between the gum and the tooth. This space forms a cuff around each tooth about 3 mm deep. And I’m trying to ride herd on all of them. These bacteria live more or less in harmony as long as one or the other does not overwhelm the others. This is why cleanings are scheduled about 6 months apart; it takes this long for various populations to start to get out of control. If you go for about 2 years without a cleaning then the bacteria most out of control are the ones that cause the most destruction of bone that support the tooth. This is the beginning of periodontal disease—a painless loss of bone, loosening of the (front) teeth, bad breath, and disgusting red, swollen, infected gums.
But wait, there’s more…there are links between these out-of-control populations of oral bacteria and systemic disease:
- Heart Disease. The nastiest is Bacterial Endocarditis where oral bacteria have been found to lodge on weak heart valves.
- Other Cardiovascular Disease. These nasty bacteria have been seen to be implicated in clogged arteries in the heart and brain.
- Pregnancy. Poor oral health has time and again been implicated in low birth weight.
- Diabetes. The diabetes lowers your resistance to gum disease so you are more susceptible to periodontal disease.
- Osteoporosis. A possible link found with periodontal disease but not yet proven.
So here’s what a conscientious person will want to do to ensure optimal oral health:
- Buy a good quality electric brush. You’ll need to spend easily about $100. Ask me about the brands I like.
- Brush like a dentist (or hygienist). Spend 6 minutes in the morning and 6 minutes at night. Really.
- But, you say, the instructions say only 2 minutes are needed. If they said you need 6 minutes how many people would buy that brush? Even I can’t do an adequate job in 2 minutes!
- Floss-I won’t get too worried if you only do it a few times a week.
Make that appointment to get them cleaned and LISTEN to what your hygienist says!