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Oral Care Basics

April 24, 2024 Uncategorized

You have likely heard of some of the basics when it comes to dental health: plaque, fluoride, and tartar. These are all words that dentists throw around but you may not know what they mean. You may have been told about tips during your earliest visits to the dentist, such as brushing your teeth in a circular motion. It is not uncommon for even adult patients to still have confusion over the right ways to keep up their dental health. Many people still struggle with cavity prevention or remembering to floss regularly. Patients who come into our office often have many questions about ways to improve and maintain oral health and hygiene. We are here to answer some of your frequently asked questions so that you can come to our office feeling comfortable and prepared for your next visit. 

What is plaque? Is it different from tartar? 

Plaque and tartar are not quite the same things and it is very important that you brush and floss to prevent and remove them. Patients often confuse the two terms but they have several differences. Plaque occurs when you have a filmy layer on your teeth (from your saliva) that has food and liquid trapped right around your gums. When you notice you have plaque, it is relatively easy to begin removing it by keeping up with your daily brushing, flossing, and mouthwash routine. Tartar, on the other hand, occurs when your plaque begins to build up. Once it builds up, it hardens and becomes much more difficult to remove. When tartar builds up on your teeth, it can cause cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay. To prevent plague from building up, dentists recommend that you brush your teeth in between meals and floss out any food that is trapped between your teeth. Drinking water after meals and snacks, flossing regularly, using mouthwash, and cutting back on sugary foods and drinks also prevents heavy plaque build up. For people with sensitive teeth that are prone to cavities, they should make sure to brush and floss more frequently. 

Some patients who come in for a dental cleaning often have a considerable amount of tartar. This can sometimes make cleanings uncomfortable because the dentist is removing the plague that has been built up, especially for patients who have sensitive gums. Your Apex dentist has the right tools to help remove your tartar and keep your teeth healthy!

Can fluoride help?

Fluoride is a substance found in most tap water as well as mouthwash and toothpaste. Fluoride can help restore minerals needed to help prevent your teeth from decaying. It helps make your teeth strong and more resilient, preventing cavities from forming. Some people may avoid tap water drinking that has fluoride, but it actually contributes to good oral health.

If you’re looking for an Apex, NC dentist, the reliable and accomplished dentists from Alliance Dentistry can help. We understand that taking care of your teeth might seem like second nature: everyone knows they should brush their teeth twice a day. However, they might not understand the importance of flossing or visiting their dentist for their teeth cleaning. We want to help set the record straight and explain why these things are so important when it comes to keeping your teeth bright, white, and healthy. 

I don’t always go to dental cleanings. What should I expect?

We can’t stress enough how important it is to go to your dental cleanings every year. Going to the dentist is something that many people dread, so they often skip out on dental cleanings. You may think if you brush your teeth extra hard and use floss you won’t need to go to your dentist for a cleaning. However, we do more than brush and floss your teeth (and we never recommend brushing your teeth too hard!). Dentists can inspect your mouth and suggest additional treatments to improve your dental health and improve your smile. They are knowledgeable about many aspects of dental health as well as tips to improve the appearance of your teeth. Some dentists may even offer teeth whitening. They can educate you on tips for fixing and improving your dental routine so you can avoid problems in the future that may require expensive treatments, such as root canals. If you are experiencing tooth pain they can evaluate the cause of it. Some things you can expect from a dental cleaning are:

  • A 30-60 minutes appointment, depending on whether you need X-rays
  • Your dentist carefully scraping off any plaque on your teeth
  • Your dentist checking the health of your teeth and discussing any issues, like cavities, gum health, and tooth-grinding
  • Your dentist cleaning and polishing your teeth
  • Your dentist discussing if a fluoride treatment would be beneficial for your tooth health

How many times a year should I come in to get my teeth cleaned?

We believe, like the American Dental Association recommends, that you should come in two times a year to get your teeth cleaned. If you have any issues at your cleaning appointment, we may ask you to come in for additional treatments to maintain gum, teeth, and mouth health. Visiting your dentist regularly ensures that your mouth is in good health and that any issues can be treated so they don’t turn into more serious problems. Waiting too long to treat minor tooth decay can be costly, and some dental treatments have only partial or zero insurance coverage. It is better to have a dentist fix a small cavity right away before it decays to the point where they might have to replace it with a crown or pull it out entirely. 

I didn’t have a good checkup last time. What more can I do at home to make sure my teeth are healthy?

We know having perfectly white teeth can be unachievable. However, there are many things you can do every day to keep your mouth healthy and ready for their next checkup. We encourage our patients to brush twice a day (and sometimes after every meal), rinse with mouthwash, and floss once a day. This can be especially good for keeping the areas between your teeth healthy. Don’t forget to change your toothbrush or toothbrush head every 3 months or when you notice wear and tear. This will ensure you are getting the most out of your toothbrush.