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Preventing Periodontal Disease

You play the major role in preventing periodontal disease. To keep your teeth for a lifetime, you must remove plaque from your teeth by conscientious brushing and flossing twice every day. Additional aids such as toothpicks and special brushes may be required where bone has been lost.

Regular dental visits are equally important. Daily cleaning will keep the formation of calculus to a minimum, but it won't completely prevent it. A professional cleaning (scaling, or prophylaxis) by a dentist or hygienist will remove hardened calculus in places that your toothbrush, floss and other cleaning aids have missed. Many dentists, including Dr. Layport and her hygienists, use an ultrasonic machine that vibrates the calculus off the teeth and then use hand-held instruments (scalers) for the final smoothing. Typically, cleanings for healthy gums are recommended every 6 months.

Proper Techniques

Several different methods of brushing are acceptable. One effective method for removing plaque is as follows:
•  Place the brush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
•  Gently wiggle the brush back and forth in short (half-a-tooth-wide) strokes; then brush away from the gumline and up for the lower teeth and down for the upper teeth.
•  Brush the inner tooth surfaces.
•  Brush the chewing surfaces.
•  Use the "toe" of the brush for the inner front tooth surfaces.
•  Brush your tongue, too.

Brush thoroughly with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. If you notice any repeated discomfort after brushing, consult your dentist.

One method to clean between teeth is with dental floss. Flossing removes plaque and food particles from areas a toothbrush can't reach. Flossing is a skill that takes time and practice. Glide is an excellent non-shredding floss.
•  Break off about 18 inches of floss, and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers.
•  Wind the remaining floss around the same finger of the other hand. This finger will take up the floss as it is used.
•  Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, with about one-half inch of floss between them, leaving no slack. Use a gentle "sawing motion" to guide the floss between your teeth. Do not jerk or snap the floss into the gums.
•  When the floss reaches the gumline, curve it into a C-shape against one tooth. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth until you feel resistance.
•  Hold the floss against the tooth. Gently scrape the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum. Rub up and down several times and then repeat the process for the tooth on the other side of the space.
•  Don't forget the back of your last tooth.
•  To clean between the bottom teeth, you will find it easier to guide the floss using the forefingers of both hands.

More Helpful Tips

Select a brush with soft, end-rounded or polished bristles. It is important to replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles become worn.

The Oral-B Braun and the Sonicare are excellent electric brushes. Dr. Layport can assist you in selecting a brush.

When choosing a toothpaste or gel, look for a product containing fluoride. Fluoride helps reduce tooth decay in adults and children. If you have sensitive teeth, then sensitive formula toothpaste may help. Anti-tartar toothpastes can increase sensitivity to cold in some patients.

Oral irrigators, such as the Water Pik, are meant to enhance, not replace, regular brushing and flossing.

Mouthwashes are primarily used to freshen breath. If you must constantly use a breath freshener to hide unpleasant mouth odor, see your dentist. Bad breath can be a sign of poor oral health. Children under six years of age should not use mouthwashes.

When flossing, establish a regular pattern. Do the top half on one side, then the other. Move to the bottom half on one side, then the other. This way you're less likely to miss any teeth. As the floss becomes frayed or soiled, a turn from one middle finger to the other will bring up a fresh section.

You may experience sore or bleeding gums for the first five or six days that you floss. This should stop once the plaque is broken up and the bacteria removed. If bleeding does not stop, call your dentist. Improper flossing may harm your gums.

Persons who have trouble handling floss may wish to try a floss holder or an interdental cleaning aid. The Proxa-brush or Stim-U-Dents are good tools for many patients. Dr. Layport will recommend a home-care regimen individually tailored to your needs.

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