There are two simple steps to good oral hygiene and healthy teeth and gums – firstly, good home care (brushing and flossing!) and secondly, regular visits to a dental hygienist and dentist.
Poor oral hygiene will lead to a number of problems, some of them extremely serious if left untreated.
Some signs to look for are:
• Bleeding gums
• Swollen and inflamed gums
• Loose teeth
• Receding gums
• Bad breath
What is a dental hygienist?
A dental hygienist or Oral Health Therapist is an important part of your dental team. Most simply, hygienists provide full oral health care, focusing on the prevention and treatment of oral disease. They often work with a dentist, orthodontist, or other dental specialists.
Most hygienists are highly enthusiastic about educating patients on the most effective ways to keep their teeth and gums healthy and long-lasting. They will advise you on all aspects of dental hygiene, including the use of toothbrushes, electronic aids, dental floss and inter-dental brushes.
They will explain to you how it vital to keep on top of your oral health, as research shows a clear link between periodontal disease and the following medical conditions:
- Cardiovascular disease risk, with increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
• Premature birth with low birth weight in babies
• Uncontrolled diabetes in adult diabetics
• Increased risk of pneumonia, particularly in elderly patients
How often should I see my hygienist?
To maintain healthy teeth and gums, it is recommended you visit your clinician and dental hygienist twice a year.
What will my dental hygienist or clinician do?
Your dental hygienist or clinician will examine your mouth to assess the overall health of your teeth and gums and to look for any sign of periodontal disease (see below for more information).
He/she will then do a thorough clean, scale and polish. The scale will be done using hand instruments, or by ultrasonic scaling.
This removes any bacterial deposits and plaque from above and below the gum surface. Once the plaque has been removed, your teeth will be polished, leaving them feeling smooth and fresh.
Your dental hygienist or clinician will then show you how to care for your teeth at home, and will recommend the correct products for you to use.
Periodontal (or gum) disease is a process that starts with a biofilm that adheres to the surface of your teeth. Gums first become red, then inflamed and swollen. Later, the bone that supports the teeth is eaten away. In the final stages, this leads to tooth loss.
What is biofilm?
This is the thin layer of saliva, bacteria and food that clings to the teeth. It is often referred to as plaque.
What is tartar or calculus?
When the biofilm is not removed by professional care and daily brushing and flossing, it mineralises. Once this happens, it forms a tenacious bond that can only be removed by the hygienist or dentist.
What’s to lose?
Periodontal disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults, however this does not have to happen.
Consistent periodontal care including examination and x-rays as needed are key to your oral health.
The Stages of Periodontal Disease
A mild inflammation of the gums, which may occasionally bleed when you brush and floss. No bone loss has occurred, so it is totally reversible.
This is the next stage of periodontal disease. Here the gums separate from the tooth allowing bacteria to invade. The toxins they produce cause additional inflammation and bleeding. Much more damaging is the bone loss that occurs, as it is irreversible damage. With early intervention and proper care, this loss can be maintained non-surgically, preserving your teeth.
In the final stages of periodontal disease, pronounced loss of gum attachment, bone loss, pus accumulation and eventual tooth loss are exhibited. In its earlier stages, surgical intervention may be recommended. In latter stages, there is no cure except for extractions.
Your hygienist and/or dentist will measure the degree of any breakdown of the gums using a probe.
The teeth are cleaned of all hard and soft deposits.
The root surfaces of the teeth are cleansed of all deposits allowing inflammation to decrease. Local anaesthetic may be used.
We may recommend rinses and/or gels to aid in reducing bacteria. This will ease sensitivity and promote oral health.
Some situations require a surgical intervention to re-establish optimal health. In these cases, you may be referred to a specialist.