While dental emergencies can strike anyone, our patients who commit to regular preventive care present with significantly fewer problems over time. Professional cleanings with a registered dental hygienist allow us to bring a blend of proactive efforts to you. Deposits of mineralized plaque, known as tartar, adhere to certain areas of the teeth, even with your best efforts. These deposits offer suitable housing for millions of harmful bacteria to reside. Left unchecked, they produce a flood of toxins into the gums. This frequently cascades into devastating chronic problems, even resulting in loss of the teeth.
When you visit us periodically, we can gently remove the deposits from the tooth surfaces. Without sitting undisturbed, bacterial tartar doesn't have the same opportunity to produce irreversible damage. Furthermore, we use professional-strength polishing paste that gently buffs away stain and microscopic plaque, leaving your teeth ultra-smooth and shiny. Since discoloration settles into the enamel of your teeth over time, this helps slow yellowing while maintaining a glassy surface for better cleansing.
Adults over the age of 35 lose more teeth to gum disease (periodontal disease) than because of cavities. Three out of four adults are affected at some time in their life by gum disease, and we see many such patients each week at our downtown Pittsburgh dental office.
Periodontal disease and tooth decay are both caused by bacterial plaque. Plaque is a colorless film which constantly forms on your teeth and sticks to them at the gum line. The best way to prevent cavities and periodontal disease due to plaque is to brush and floss at least twice daily, using the proper technique and the right tools.
How to Brush
Position the brush at a 45-degree angle where your gums and teeth meet. Gently move the brush in a circular motion several times, using small, gentle strokes to brush the outside surfaces of your teeth. Use light pressure to allow the bristles to work their way in between your teeth, but not so much pressure that you feel any discomfort. When you are done cleaning the outside surfaces of all your teeth, follow the same directions to clean the inside surfaces of the back teeth.
To clean the inside surfaces of the upper and lower front teeth, hold the brush vertically. Make several gentle back-and-forth strokes over each tooth. Don’t forget to gently brush the surrounding gum tissue. Finally, clean the biting surfaces of your teeth by using short, gentle strokes. Change the position of the brush as often as necessary and watch yourself in the mirror to ensure that you reach and clean all surfaces. After you are done, rinse vigorously to remove any plaque you might have loosened while brushing.
If you have any pain while brushing or have any questions about how to brush properly, please ask our team at your next visit or call the office at 412-387-6113 and a member of our team can help. Pittsburgh dentist Dr. Pounds recommends using a soft toothbrush.
How to Floss
Periodontal disease usually appears between the teeth, where your toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing is a very effective way to remove plaque from those surfaces, but it is important to develop the proper technique.
Start with a piece of floss (waxed is easier) about 18” long. Lightly wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand. Wrap the rest of the floss around the middle finger of the other hand.
To clean the upper teeth, hold the floss tightly between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Gently insert the floss between the teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Do not force the floss or try to snap it in to place.
Bring the floss down to the gum line, and then curve it into a C-shape against one tooth. Slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth until you feel light resistance. Move the floss up and down on the side of one tooth, then the other until they are scraped clean.
Clean both sides of each upper tooth in a similar manner, being careful not to cut the gum tissue between the teeth. As the floss becomes soiled, unwrap from one finger and wrap around the other to get to a clean section. To clean between the bottom teeth, guide the floss using the forefingers of both hands. Do not forget the backside of the last tooth on each side of the mouth on top and bottom.
When you are done, rinse vigorously with water to remove plaque and food particles. Do not be alarmed if during the first week of proper flossing your gums bleed or are a little sore. If your gums hurt while flossing you could be doing it too hard or pinching the gum. As you floss daily and remove the plaque, your gums will heal and the bleeding should stop.
If your gums continue to bleed, please contact our office for an appointment as soon as possible. Bleeding gums is not normal!
Caring for Sensitive Teeth
Sometimes teeth are sensitive to hot and cold after a dental treatment. If the mouth is kept clean, this sensitivity should quickly diminish, but neglecting the mouth during this time will allow irritation to spread and the sensitivity will remain and worsen. If you have sensitive teeth and gums that do not improve even with proper care, please call our office and request a consultation with Dr. Pounds. She may recommend a medicated toothpaste or mouth rinse designed specifically for sensitive teeth.
Choosing Oral Hygiene Products
Dr. Rebecca Pounds and her team are proud to recommend Sonicare Oral Health Care products. While many people find a simple toothbrush, generic toothpaste and waxed floss to be adequate for their oral care regimen, there are many advanced products on the market that can be helpful. These include:
Different types of toothbrushes:
- Automatic and “high-tech” electronic toothbrushes. These are safe and effective for the majority of our patients.
- Oral irrigators (water spraying devices, or “pics”) will rinse your mouth thoroughly, but will not remove plaque. You still need to brush and floss in conjunction with the irrigator.
- Electric toothbrushes similar to the ones manufactured under the Rotadent and Interplak brand names
- Toothbrushes with a rubber tip on the handle that can be used to massage the gums after brushing.
- Tiny one-use brushes (interproximal toothbrushes) that clean between your teeth. (If these are used improperly you could injure the gums, so discuss proper use with Dr. Pounds).
Fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinse:
- If used in conjunction with proper brushing and flossing, these can reduce tooth decay as much as 40%. These rinses are not recommended for children under six years of age.
- Tartar control toothpastes will reduce tartar above the gum line, but since gum disease starts below the gum line these products have not been proven to reduce the risk of early stage gum disease.
- Anti-plaque rinses, approved by the American Dental Association, contain agents that may help bring early gum disease under control. Use these in conjunction with twice daily brushing and flossing.
Daily brushing and flossing will keep dental calculus to a minimum, but a professional cleaning will remove calculus in places your toothbrush and floss have missed. Your visit to our practice is an important part of your quest to prevent gum disease. Call and schedule an appointment for your next preventive cleaning today, and keep your teeth for your lifetime!