Why is oral hygiene important?
Good oral hygiene helps to prevent dental problems - mainly plaque and calculus which are the main causes of gum disease and caries (tooth decay). Good oral hygiene may also help to prevent or delay dental erosion.
- Dental plaque is a soft whitish deposit that forms on the surface of teeth. It forms when bacteria (germs) combine with food and saliva. Plaque contains many types of bacteria. You can remove plaque by good oral hygiene.
- Calculus, sometimes called tartar, is hardened calcified plaque. It sticks firmly to teeth. Generally, it can only be removed with special instruments by a dentist or dental hygienist.
Some common dental problems related to poor oral hygiene
Caries (tooth decay)
Caries is when holes form in parts of the enamel of a tooth. A main cause of caries is due to a build-up of plaque. The bacteria in the plaque react with sugars and starches in food to form acids. The acids are kept next to the teeth by the sticky plaque and dissolve the tooth enamel.
Gum disease (periodontal disease)
Depending on the severity, gum disease is generally divided into two types - gingivitis and periodontitis:
- Gingivitis means inflammation of the gums. There are various types. However, most cases of gingivitis are caused by plaque.
- Periodontitis occurs if gingivitis becomes worse and progresses to involve the tissue that joins the teeth to the gums (the periodontal membrane).
Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. It is also a main cause of bad breath (halitosis). However, gum disease is often treatable.
Tooth (dental) erosion
Tooth erosion is a common problem. It is the gradual erosion of tooth enamel by the action of acid on the teeth. This is different to damage caused by bacteria resulting in tooth decay and caries. Tooth erosion affects the entire surface of the tooth. In time, tooth erosion can cause thinned enamel, and eventually can expose the softer dentine underneath the enamel. Dentine is sensitive so erosion can lead to your teeth being more sensitive to hot, cold or sweet foods and drinks.
Routine oral hygiene
It is important to get into a regular habit of good oral hygiene. In particular, regular teeth brushing and cleaning between teeth.
Visiting a hygienist
Dental hygienists are specially trained to work with the dentist to give care to patients.
They play an important part in dental health care and are mainly concerned with gum health - showing people correct home care and helping to keep the teeth and gums healthy.
Look after your Heart -Oral hygiene, gum disease and heart disease
In addition to the benefits to your teeth, good mouth hygiene may have even further benefits. There is some evidence to suggest that poor oral hygiene is associated with an increased risk of developing heart diseases such as heart attack and angina, and other blood vessel-related problems (cardiovascular disease).