The mouth is the gateway for all food and nourishment that the body receives. It is also, unfortunately, a gateway for germs, and a lumping-off position for many dangerous infections. This warm, moist cavity is a favorite breeding place for bacteria – the bacteria that cause teeth to decay, and bring about a subsequent breakdown of the supporting structures, with mouth infection.
Too little thought is given to oral hygiene – the practice of seeing that the mouth and its contents (the teeth and the supporting structures of gum and bone) are kept in good order. Our appearance, speech, good digestion, and general health are all influenced by the measure of our oral hygiene.
To ensure a good set or teeth and a healthy mouth we must rely on regular preventive measures. Correct diet, right from the early days is important. This means plenty of dairy products, fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, eggs, and wholemeal bread for the toddler, and the restriction of sweet, starchy foods to a minimum.
Parents must realize that the “baby teeth” are most important. They should be preserved, in good order, until the permanent ones arrive. If they are neglected and allowed to decay this will have a detrimental effect upon the permanent set.
The toddler should be taken long to the dentist when he is about three years old, even though his teeth may be in good order. Don’t wait for decay – prevention is so much simpler and less painful. Toddler days are a good time to acquire the life-time habit of visiting the dentist every four to six months, Just as a precaution.
During childhood and adolescence much the same care applies. Regular visits to the dentist will reveal the beginnings of decay; small cavities can be filled before much damage is done, and any irregularities in the teeth can be corrected. A well-balanced diet and attention to general health will do much to ensure sound teeth.
As soon as the child is old enough, he should be taught the correct use of a toothbrush and encouraged to clean his teeth immediately after every meal.
In the adult mouth, a new problem arises. That is the presence of tartar deposits on the teeth. Tartar, which consists of deposits of mineral salts, is an irritant to the gums. If allowed to accumulate it will eventually undermine the attachment of the gum to the teeth, causing ulceration of the gums and recession of the bone. Eventually this may lead to pyorrhea. This condition can be controlled in its early stages, but if proper oral hygiene has been carried out it is not likely to occur.
However, while the dentist can do much, and plays a big part in your oral hygiene, the responsibility is by no means all his. Unless you are going to practice oral hygiene regularly at home, all the dentist’s efforts will be unavailing.
Your toothbrush is your first line of defense against dental decay. Select a good brush with firm bristles, spaced fairly wide apart. To get the best results from cleaning your teeth, you must ensure that every surface of each tooth is thoroughly cleansed, and that the gums are massaged. Follow this method for cleaning.
Rinse the mouth with water before brushing. Clean only three or four teeth at a time. Brush from the gums towards the tips of the teeth with a rolling motion – first on the outside, then on the inside – above and then below. Next, brush the biting surfaces of the molars. Repeat these movements at least four times each.
Once you have become accustomed to the routine, it should not take you more than 3 minutes. Finally, to remove the particles of food loosened by the brush, rinse the mouth several times energetically with clean water, forcing the water backwards and forwards between the teeth.
It is a good idea to have two toothbrushes, and use them alternately so that they have a chance to dry completely. Rinse your brush thoroughly after cleaning your teeth, and hang it up to dry. Discard a toothbrush as soon as the bristles become bent or lose their resiliency. It is no longer effective, and certainly not hygienic.
After every meal
The acids which cause dental decay begin to form in the mouth immediately after you have eaten sweet, starchy foods; so you can see that it is important to clean your teeth straight after every meal. If you are eating away from home, try to finish your meal with a piece of fruit, which acts as a cleansing agent, and thoroughly rinse the mouth with water.
A teaspoonful of salt in a glass of water is an excellent mouth wash, which, if used properly, helps to remove the debris from around the teeth. Do not gargle. Use your cheeks as a pump to force the wash mechanically through and around the teeth.
Do not pin your faith on any particular brand of toothpaste. None of them can prevent decay. The important thing is how the brush is used. Your dentist may suggest further methods for cleaning in between the teeth, and will gladly demonstrate to you.
If you wear a removable denture, pay special attention to these points.
- The denture should be washed under running water after a meal, and then cleaned with a stiff nailbrush and soap.
- If there is any metal on a denture which touches a tooth in the mouth, it must be thoroughly cleaned and kept highly polished. Isolated, natural teeth in the mouth should receive special attention during cleaning.
For your mouth and its contents to be maintained in a healthy condition throughout life, there must be close cooperation between you and your dentist. Carry out your oral hygiene faithfully at home, and see your dentist at regular intervals for a check-up, scaling, polishing, and repair work. That is the only way to ensure sound teeth in a healthy mouth.