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Don't Brush Aside Dental Hygiene


Delta Dental reminds people that daily self-care is the key to good oral health

   

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OAK BROOK, Ill. (Oct. 24, 2011) - Americans consumed an estimated 24.7 pounds of candy per capita in 2010!1 It's unknown exactly what percentage of that number occurred around Halloween, but during "Dental Hygiene Month," Delta Dental is reminding everyone that good oral health starts at home. The daily one-two punch of brushing twice with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once is still the foundation for maintaining healthy teeth and gums.

As uncomplicated as it may be, consistency is the key. You should clean your teeth every morning and night with fluoride toothpaste, ideally right after eating. The sooner you can brush following a meal, the better. The longer food stays stuck to your teeth, the more acid is produced that erodes tooth enamel. But that doesn't mean you have to carry a toothbrush in your pocket. Chewing sugar-free gum after a meal provides some help as it stimulates saliva to buffer the acid and helps dislodge food particles from the mouth. Gum containing the natural sweetener, Xylitol, is a particularly good option since studies have shown that consistent exposure to Xylitol can reduce cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth.

Use a toothbrush with soft, flexible bristles. The softer bristles get into all the cracks and crevices between the teeth and under the gums more easily. Although you can do an equally good job with a standard toothbrush, studies have shown that some people, particularly those with physical disabilities or difficulty brushing, can do a more thorough job with a rotating/oscillating powered (electronic) toothbrush.2

When brushing, place the brush at a 45-degree angle toward the gumline and use short, even, easy brushstrokes to try to hit every surface of your tooth. Don't forget to scrub bacteria from your tongue and the roof of your mouth, two oft-ignored areas of the mouth. You also should brush gently under the gumline.3 Using your toothbrush too aggressively can further gum recession and leave the root of the tooth exposed and vulnerable to eventual decay.4

Young children are particularly prone to tooth decay, so brushing properly with fluoride toothpaste is important. Parents should supervise young children (or actually do the job for very young kids) to make sure they do a good job, don't put too much toothpaste on the brush and spit out the excess when they are finished. Fluoride is great for preventing cavities, but swallowing toothpaste while the teeth are still developing under the gums can contribute to dental fluorosis, which usually appears as faint white markings on the teeth when they finally erupt.

It's a good idea to gargle with mouthwash. Most people use mouthwash to combat bad breath or morning mouth. The smell is caused by bacteria that accumulate on the tongue and produce sulphuric compounds like hydrogen sulfide. To combat this, mouth rinses are classified in two categories: those that kill the bacteria and those that neutralize or mask the odor. Antibacterial mouthwashes may also reduce the amount of plaque and reduce the risk of gingivitis.5 Children can benefit from swishing with mouthwash containing fluoride as long as they are supervised. But it can certainly also help adults who battle with cavities or have a lot of crowns and fillings.

"More and more, scientists are finding direct associations between dental health and overall well-being," said Dr. Bill Kohn, DDPA's vice president of dental science and policy. "So maintaining proper dental hygiene isn't only about smart oral health care, it's about good health care overall."

About Delta Dental Plans Association
The not-for-profit Delta Dental Plans Association (www.deltadental.com) based in Oak Brook, Ill., is the leading national network of independent dental service corporations specializing in providing dental benefits programs to more than 56 million Americans in more than 95,000 employee groups throughout the country.

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1 U.S. Census Bureau, Current Industrial Reports, Confectionery: 2010, Table 1
2 Deacon SA, Glenny A-M, Deery C, Robinson PG, Heanue M, Walmsley AD, Shaw WC. Different powered toothbrushes for plaque control and gingival health. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD004971.
3 American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/5624.aspx?currentTab=1#top. Accessed 10/2011.
4 Dental Health for Adults: A Guide to Protecting Your Teeth and Gums. Copyright © by Harvard University. All rights reserved.
5 Fedorowicz Z, Aljufairi H, Nasser M, Outhouse TL, Pedrazzi V. Mouthrinses for the treatment of halitosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD006701