Dental ArticlesTips to Manage Your Oral Health
Fear of the Dentist
How to Manage Your Fear of the Dentist
By Shawn Watson, About.com Guide
Updated January 24, 2011
If you are willing to admit you have a fear of the dentist, trust me when I tell you are not alone. An estimated 80% of adult Americans have a fear of the dentist. Over half of those with a dental fear confess this actually prevents them from obtaining dental care necessary to achieve and maintain healthy teeth and gums.
If you have anxiety associated with the dentist and dental treatment, there are easy ways for you to prepare yourself before an appointment, along with ways to distract yourself from the surroundings that many people dread experiencing during their appointment. If you have a trip to see the dentist in your future and you are anxious, why not consider the following:
Listening to music during the procedure will help drown out the noises from the dental equipment used in the office. For many people, the sounds of the dental office are a trigger that cause their apprehension and nervousness. Bring along your music source and head phones. If you do not have your own portable music device, many offices are introducing their own entertainment options such as televisions mounted on the dental chair or ceiling, video game consoles, and MP3 players for your use during your appointment.
If the bright lights shining down at your mouth from the overhead light causes you to feel more like you are in an interrogation room rather than in a dental office, bring along a pair of old sunglasses that you do not mind damaging. Many dentists require their patients to wear protective glasses to prevent debris and water from entering the eyes. Protective glasses are at times uncomfortable and generally do not shade the eyes from bright lights. Wearing your own sunglasses will feel comfortable on your face and at the same time, block any uncomfortable light in your eyes. Dark sunglasses may also help you comfortably close your eyes during the procedure.
Ask questions before your treatment. Fear of the unknown leaves many people at the edge of their (dental) seat, waiting anxiously for the next tap or poke in their mouth. Ask your dentist to let you know what happens during your specific treatment and request that you know what going on in your mouth as it happens. Many dentists remain quiet as they are concentrating on the procedure they are performing. However, the dental assistant will likely be more than welcome to explain to you what to expect next as your teeth and gums are worked on.
Be honest with your dentist and discuss any fears you have before the treatment begins. When the dentist is aware of your specific concerns, he can possibly modify the treatment plan to accommodate your fear. For example, the fear of swallowing dental materials or choking on the debris from the removal of old restorations is common. If your dentist is aware of your concern before the treatment begins, the rubber dam will help ease your fear as it prevents materials from entering your mouth. On the other hand, the fear of gagging is also common in dentistry. Many people become anxious when the rubber dam is placed on their mouth because it may cause them to gag.
When you address the root of your dental anxiety and find ways to help you manage your fears, obtaining routine and emergency dental care will be less burdensome and more beneficial to your overall health and wellness.
4 Tips for Good Oral Hygiene
The most important rule when it comes to good dental health is to make sure that you regularly use common dental hygiene practices. It’s easy to forget to brush your teeth every now and again, and it’s easy to forgo flossing because you’re too busy.
However, it’s also too easy to become too lax in your dental care routine, and for most people, it becomes a slippery slope: once you start to forego a part of your dental care, the more and more you leave it out until you don’t do it altogether.
Here are some things to keep in mind to be able to keep good dental care habits:
- Don’t just go for any dental care items you see. Look for items that have the seal of approval from your local dental health association. It means that these items have been tested in terms of how well they will be able to clean your teeth.
- Your daily dental care routine should contain the Holy Trinity: Brush, floss, mouthwash. Brushing helps get rid of the bigger food particles on your tongue and teeth. Flossing gets rid of the particles stuck in between your teeth, as well as your gums. Swishing mouthwash around your mouth kills any lingering bacteria.
- Most people actually rush through their dental care routine. In general, you should brush your teeth for around two minutes, floss between each tooth, and swish your mouthwash around your mouth for at least 45 seconds. If you’re unsure of the time, you can keep a timer in your bathroom so that you can time yourself.
- Visit a dentist regularly, and if you’re feeling pain in your mouth, visit a dentist immediately!
By keeping an eye on your dental care habits, you can actually prevent most common dental problems such as gingivitis and cavities. As long as you are diligent and consistent, you can keep up good dental hygiene with very little effort.
You’ve probably heard it ever since you were a kid: brush your teeth everyday so that they can remain strong and healthy. However, it’s not as simple as picking up any toothbrush from your local supermarket, going home, and scrubbing away at your teeth for a few seconds.
To be able to brush your teeth properly, there are some things that you need to keep in mind, such as:
- Using the right toothbrush
Not all toothbrushes are created the same. Some toothbrushes are of better quality than others, and believe it or not, both the material and the structure of the toothbrush matter when it comes to cleaning your teeth. Soft bristles with rounded ends and a rounded head toothbrush is generally the best type, because it cleans without damaging your teeth or gum tissue, and it can get into the small crevices of your mouth.
- Replacing your toothbrush regularly
Whether it’s because of convenience or sentiment, a lot of people don’t take the time to change their toothbrush regularly. A used toothbrush does not clean as well as a new one. The Australian Dental Association recommends that you change your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, both for practical and sanitary reasons.
- Use the Proper Strokes
Even the motion of brushing is something that you should take into consideration. Proper brushing technique is a combination of up and down, side to side, and various movements of the toothbrush in your mouth. Basically, you need to hit every spot in your mouth to make sure that you get every surface you need to reach.
- Time and Touch
You need to brush for at least 2 minutes; and when you brush, you should brush just hard enough to get the job done, but not so hard that you draw blood from your gums.
If you really want to learn how to brush your teeth properly, visit a dentist so that he or she can demonstrate proper toothbrush techniques.
Choosing the Right Mouthwash
The best way to round out a tooth brushing and flossing session is by swishing out your mouth with some mouthwash. Not only does it kill all the residual bacterial and wash out the smallest food and beverage particles, it also leaves your mouth feeling refreshed and pleasantly tingly.
However, it’s pretty difficult to choose the right mouthwash, especially when you consider the number of mouthwashes currently available on the market. So choosing the right one for you can seem like a huge task!
Generally, mouthwashes fall into one of three categories: Breath freshening, fluoride-containing, and anti-gingivitis.
Breath freshening mouthwashes are the most common, and are usually more readily available than the other two types. While breath freshening mouthwashes can make your breath smell good temporarily, they offer little else when it comes to oral hygiene.
If you don’t have a specific oral health problem and you’re looking for a mouthwash that can generally clean and freshen up your mouth, this is a good choice for you.
Some mouthwashes contain fluoride, which helps strengthen the enamel of your teeth. If you have weak or brittle teeth, this is a good mouthwash to accompany your toothpaste. However, it’s not easy to obtain this type of mouthwash, and you may need a prescription from your dentist before you can purchase one.
Lastly, anti-gingivitis mouthwashes are great for people who suffer from oral health problems such as periodontal disease or cavities. The anti-septic property of this kind of mouthwash helps clean out harmful bacteria from the mouth so that you feel both clean and refreshed after using it. Again, you may need a prescription for this type of mouthwash.
To get the best advice of what kind of mouthwash to use, visit a dentist so you can find out which mouthwash would be the most advantageous for your particular needs.
How Smoking Negatively Impacts Your Oral Health
Sure, you’ve probably heard your family and friends tell you why you should quit (or not start) smoking. It’s bad for your health, and usually, people point out that smoking causes diseases such as lung cancer and emphysema.
However, you don’t normally hear much about how smoking affects your oral health. But when you really think about it, it’s your oral health that gets affected first. After all, it’s the first part of your body that the smoke, tar, and all those other chemicals hit first.
According to the Cancel Council Australia, the most serious illness caused by smoking that is directly related to dental health is oral cancer. Studies have shown that over 90% of people who have any form of oral cancer are smokers, and that people who smoke are six times more likely to contract the disease than non-smokers.
Smoking also affects the gums, and can cause periodontal disease. It starts out as gum discoloration, and the more tar particles that build up in your gum tissue, the more likely you will get periodontal disease.
Eventually, your gums will become inflamed, which causes the bones underneath to become infected. Tooth deterioration and loss are inevitable for heavy smokers.
In general, no form of tobacco is safe. It doesn’t matter whether you’re chewing, smoking, or inhaling your tobacco; if your mouth is in regular contact with tobacco, it is dangerous and can cause cancer. The most effective way to prevent oral cancer is to not smoke or use tobacco.
While it is difficult for most smokers to quit, it is a personal achievement that will reward you for a long time to come. Not only will you live a longer, happier life, but you’ll enjoy a great white smile and fresh breath as well.
The Great Debate: Manual vs. Electric Toothbrush
Over the years, electric toothbrushes have become more and more popular. Some users even say that electric toothbrushes offer better cleaning compared to manual ones.
The point of a toothbrush is fairly simple: to clean the mouth by removing plaque, to stimulate the gums, and to promote good oral health. Whether manual or electric, you need to know what you are doing to be able to get the most out of your toothbrush.
There are several advantages to using a manual toothbrush. First, it’s more affordable and more readily available compared to an electric toothbrush. You can find manual toothbrushes at any supermarket, pharmacy, or even your local corner stores.
Some dentist offices even give away manual tooth brushes for free! You can bring a manual toothbrush anywhere, and use it anywhere as well without worrying about power. A manual toothbrush lets you control the pressure and speed by which you brush your teeth, and it’s great for people of any age.
On the other hand, an electric toothbrush is great for those who want to be able to brush their teeth using the correct amount of time. Many manual toothbrush users actually brush their teeth too quickly, but electric toothbrushes solve this problem by having an internal timer.
You stop brushing once the toothbrush does. Plus, electric toothbrushes are comfortable and convenient; all you need to do is position it where you need it in your mouth, and let the toothbrush do all the work for you.
Electric toothbrushes also come in a variety of styles, such as regular, opposite rotation, and rotation-oscillation. The rotation-oscillation type of electric toothbrush offers the most when it comes to variety of strokes.
In general, it doesn’t really matter whether you choose the manual or the electric toothbrush as long as you know how to brush your teeth. Consult with a dentist to know which type of toothbrush would be the best for you.
The Low Down on Bad Breath
Bad breath, also called halitosis, is one of the many problems that people have in oral care. There are numerous causes for bad breath, including bad dental habits, but they can also be indicative of other health problems, and exacerbated by diet and lifestyle.
What Causes Bad Breath?
Foods with strong odors are digested by the body. These foods are eventually carried back to the lungs where their odors are exhaled eventually. Bad breath acquired this way is only gotten rid of when the food has passed through the body; mouthwash and brushing can only alleviate the smell temporarily.
Poor dental habits, such as infrequent brushing and flossing allow bacteria to grow in the mouth: between teeth, surrounding gums, and on the tongue. This can be counteracted by gargling antibacterial mouthwash.
Other health problems may also manifest as bad breath. Periodontal disease, a kind of gum disease caused by plaque buildup on the gums gives off a foul odor in one’s breath. Xerostomia, or dry breath, is a condition where not enough saliva is produced. Thus, the mouth is not cleansed of remaining food particles, and dead cells, resulting in bad breath.
Good oral hygiene is one of the easiest ways to prevent bad breath. Teeth should be brushed twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, or after every meal. Flossing also prevents buildup of food particles and plaque. Gargling mouthwash with peroxide can help keep your breath fresh during the day. Drinking lots of water helps prevent dry breath as well, and is thus an effective preventive measure too.
Remember to visit the dentist at least twice a year for both cleaning and an oral exam. Cavities and gum disease that can cause bad breath can be detected and remedied by the dentist to prevent bad breath. If you regularly visit your dentist, you will be able to maintain good oral health.
The Tooth-Friendly Diet
When it comes to your health, you probably know that your diet contributes a lot. However, did you know that what you eat also affects your teeth, both directly and indirectly?
For example, the amount of sugar that you eat affects the surface of your teeth because the more sugar you have in your diet, the more bacteria has a chance to grow in your mouth, which leads to cavities and gum disease. So watching what you eat is not only good for the waistline, it’s also good for oral health!
Here are some foods and beverages that you should include in your diet in order to have healthy teeth:
- Calcium-rich Foods
Having a lot of calcium in your diet gives you strong bones and strong teeth! Make sure to have a lot of dairy items in your diet, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. When teeth are strong, they have a better chance of resisting bacterial infections and tooth decay.
- Vitamin C-rich Foods
You can get vitamin C from citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons, as well as berries. Potatoes are also high in vitamin C. Vitamin C helps repair tissue damage, as well as fight off infections. When you eat foods that are high in vitamin C, you are slowing down bacterial growth in your mouth. You are also preventing gum disease.
Yes, this simple liquid helps your oral health tremendously. Aside from washing out plaque and food particles from your mouth, water makes sure that your mouth stays hydrated and producing saliva, so that bacterial growth is retarded.
Make sure to avoid sugary and acidic foods, such as candies and soda, since they eat away at your teeth’s enamel. Also, avoid from crunching down on ice, because hard surfaces can damage your teeth if you’re not careful.
What You Need to Know About Flossing
No matter how well you brush your teeth or how long you spend brushing, if you don’t floss as part of the process, you have not properly performed your oral health routine.
The Australian Dental Association recommends flossing because brushing alone does not thoroughly clean out your mouth. There are some areas in your mouth that brushing cannot reach; and only flossing will be able to clean them out.
Regular flossing can help you prevent bad breath, as well as periodontal diseases, so you should floss at least once a day (especially after meals).
However, be careful not to floss too hard. Since flossing comes in direct contact with gums, doing it too hard and too fast can actually cause gum damage and bleeding.
What type of floss is best?
In general, there are two types of floss available on the market: waxed and unwaxed. Sometimes, you can get them flavored to make flossing a more enjoyable experience, especially for younger children.
Waxed floss are better for gliding into the tighter nooks between your teeth, but some people are allergic to wax; so unwaxed would be a better option in this case.
There are other varieties when it comes to choosing floss, so make the best choice based on your preference. The most important thing is that you are able to use floss easily and quickly without pain.
If you have no idea about which floss would be right for you, you can consult with a dentist. Some dentists even have samples so you can try so you can buy the one you feel most comfortable using.
If you have difficulty holding or using floss, you can buy a floss holder. Sometimes, people find it difficult to hold floss, especially if they are using the waxed type because it is a little slippery. Using a floss holder can help you floss quicker, and more thoroughly.
What You Need to Know about Teeth Whitening
Your teeth may be discolored due to the natural aging process, stains from coffee, tea, soda and tobacco, tartar and plaque buildup, or trauma to the teeth that can cause discoloration.
Whatever the reason may be, teeth whitening is one of the most common procedures to recover or achieve that dream smile you’ve always wanted.
What’s the difference between Teeth Whitening and Teeth Bleaching?
Teeth whitening is usually done using consumer whitening products such as whitening toothpastes and results in making teeth one shade lighter.
Meanwhile, teeth bleaching utilizes either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide (which is 1/3 as strong as hydrogen peroxide) and can make teeth three to eight shades lighter. For either of these approaches, we have the following choices:
- Whitening toothpastes contain mild abrasives that help in removing stains. However, they do not contain any bleaching agents.
- Whitening strips and gels are peroxide-based, and are placed directly on teeth.
- Whitening mouthwash products add peroxide-based agents to the usual mouthwash formulation.
- Tray-based tooth whiteners look like mouth guards that have a peroxide-based gel whitening solution which are worn for a couple of hours during the day, or at night.
- In-office whitening requires a visit to the dentist to perform the procedure. Bleaching agents are applied directly to the teeth, and heat, light or lasers are used to aid the bleaching process. A treatment takes 30-60 minutes, and may require multiple visits to the dentist to achieve the full effect, which can make it expensive.
Teeth whitening should not be undergone by children age 16 and below, pregnant or lactating women, and people with sensitive teeth and allergies. Teeth whitening is also discouraged for people with gum disease, worn enamel, exposed roots, and previous tooth restorations (such as fillings, crowns, etc.)
If you experience tooth sensitivity, give your teeth a break by using toothpaste for sensitive teeth, or consult a dentist for a product with fluoride.
Lastly, always remember to check to see if your chosen whitening product has been approved by the Australian Dental Association to ensure that it is safe to use.
Your Oral Health and You
While oral health is mostly linked with the mouth and the throat, you would be surprised by how much your oral health impacts other parts of the body. If you take care of your mouth, it will resonate with the rest of your body and you will feel the good (or bad) effects all throughout.
When you watch what you eat, you help both your mouth, as well as your blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Diets that are high in sugar are those that contribute to packing on the calories in your body, as well as give the bacteria in your mouth a good breeding ground.
If you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, you not only get a good dose of vitamins, nutrients, and fiber in your diet; but it’s good for your dental health as well. For instance, raw, crunchy fruits and vegetables act as natural abrasives to clean the surface and crannies of your teeth – leaving you with less build-up and less dullness.
Avoiding smoking also helps your overall health, as well as you oral health. When you avoid smoking, you avoid exposing your lungs and other organs to thousands of toxic compounds such as carbon monoxide, tar, and ammonia. So not only do you save your vital organs, but you save your teeth and gums too.
Lessening alcohol consumption can also help promote good oral hygiene. Drinking alcohol helps dehydrate the mouth, which makes it more conducive to bacterial growth. Again, by avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, you can save your teeth in addition to your liver.
So by paying special attention to your oral health, you can boost your overall health. In other words, aiming to have a healthy mouth can result in a healthy body overall – and vice versa.