By Dr. Randall LeDuke, DDS
Effective home dental plaque control, brushing and flossing, is the single most important factor in the pursuit of healthy teeth and gums. On the other hand, poor home dental plaque control is the main contributing factor to cavities and gum disease, although natural resistance to disease and diet/nutrition also play significant roles.
Dental plaque is that film of bacteria that builds up on your teeth. If allowed to accumulate, it will inevitably dissolve the holes in teeth that we call cavities. The bacteria that accumulate below the gum tissue margins infect the tissues that attach your teeth to the jaws destroying bone and ultimately leading to loss of teeth. Failure to properly remove this stuff on a day-to-day basis leads to decay, gum disease, lost teeth and, perhaps, even worse, contributes to a variety of serious health issues including heart disease and diabetes.
Often patients protest that they brush many times daily but still consistently get cavities. When I hear this, I usually run a dental instrument along their teeth and I can show them the bacterial plaque that, although easily lifted from the tooth surface, they have failed to remove with brush and floss. Educating our patients in the why, wherefore, and how-to of effective dental plaque control is one of the most important services we can provide the people who come to us for help.
Brushing Technique is Key
Brushing technique with a manual toothbrush is an important part of our home care instruction program. We believe it’s necessary for the patient to understand what it is they are trying to remove from their teeth, how and why plaque sticks to teeth, where the hard-to-get-to areas are and how to be sure, after the cleaning is done, that they have removed the plaque successfully. We show patients the difference between the appearance of healthy vs. inflamed gum tissue, called gingivitis. We believe an understanding of the disease process, even on a layman’s level, is important to establishing good oral maintenance skills. It would be a poor auto mechanic who didn’t understand the purpose of keeping clean oil in the engine! By the same logic, we believe our patients must gain some insight into dental disease in order to keep their mouths healthy on a day-to-day basis. Once the patient understands what he/she is doing with the toothbrush, we then can counsel them on the advantages of using an electric cleaning instrument.
Benefits of Electric Toothbrushes
Electric toothbrushes are useful in the way using a vacuum cleaner compares to a broom and dustpan. If you understand the concept, the purpose and the technique of proper tooth brushing, the electric alternative allows you to accomplish the job quicker and more effectively. Good quality electric tooth brushes perform the movements of correct brushing technique in a way that make plaque control a complete no-brainer. If you hold the brushes against the teeth, the instrument mechanically does everything for you.
This is particularly useful for individuals that have compromised manual dexterity. Those with physical limitations such as arthritis or limited ability to use shoulders, arms or hands can benefit from the larger handle of a powered brush.
Oral-B vs. Philips Sonicare
The two high-quality electric brushes with the largest market shares are the Oral-B and the Philips Sonicare systems. Oral-B uses a rotating, oscillating bristle movement which is very effective compared to the one-direction spin movement of less expensive mechanical brushes. The Sonicare system uses an ultrasonic vibration action that has proven to be very effective for plaque removal and tissue stimulation. Both of these systems are endorsed by our office as we have seen significant tissue improvement in our patients who have purchased and learned to use them correctly.
We believe the cornerstone of oral health begins with educating our patients on the nature of disease and instruction in effective control of dental bacteria. Effective brushing technique and use of floss is essential to oral health and electric toothbrushes can be a great advantage. One-on-one instruction in the dental office is the place to start.
As always, we love to answer your dental questions. Contact our office for more information: 731-885-0497.
214 West Church
Union City, TN 38261