William J. Whitney, DDS

Oral Hygiene

Why is oral hygiene so important?

Oral health

It is now widely accepted by both the Dental and Medical communities that chronic inflammation caused by periodontal disease is a contributing factor in numerous systemic diseases and ailments. Type II diabetes , cardiovascular disease and low birth weight are among the many conditions that have now been linked to gum disease. The redness and bleeding associated with gum disease in the mouth has been tied to these conditions in other areas of the body as evidenced by the presence of oral bacteria in locations where these bugs are not normally found.

Adults over 35 lose more teeth to gum diseases (periodontal disease) than from cavities. Three out of four adults are affected at some time in their life. Periodontal disease and decay are both caused by bacterial plaque, a colorless film, which sticks to your teeth and gumline. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth due to the normal presence of oral bacteria. By thorough daily brushing and flossing you can remove these germs and help prevent periodontal disease.

Brushing is best done in the morning and before bed. It is even better to add a time or two during the day after meals. Be sure to feel the brush tips gently massaging the gumline for the most effective results. The biting surfaces need attention too , and don't forget the tongue. Your friends will thank you. 

It's still ok to Floss

Periodontal disease usually appears between the teeth where your toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing is a very effective way to remove plaque from those surfaces. However, it is important to develop the proper technique. The following instructions will help you, but remember it takes time and practice.

Start with a piece of floss about 18” long. Lightly wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand. Wrap the rest of the floss around the middle finger of the other hand.

To clean the upper teeth, hold the floss tightly between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Gently insert the floss tightly between the teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Bring the floss to the gumline then curve it into a C-shape against one tooth. Slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth until you feel light resistance. Move the floss up and down on the side of one tooth. Remember there are two tooth surfaces that need to be cleaned in each space. Continue to floss each side of all the upper teeth. 

To clean between the bottom teeth, guide the floss using the forefingers of both hands. Do not forget the back side of the last tooth on both sides, upper and lower.

When you are done, rinse vigorously with water to remove plaque and food particles. Do not be alarmed if during the first week of flossing your gums bleed or are a little sore. As you floss daily and remove the plaque your gums will heal and the bleeding should stop.

Caring for Sensitive Teeth

If your teeth are especially sensitive to heat , cold, biting pressure or sweets call right away to have things checked. We may recommend a medicated toothpaste or mouth rinse made especially for sensitive teeth, but this could be a sign of a bigger issue of decay , a broken filling or a tendency to clench or grind your teeth. Either way it's something best caught early.

Choosing Oral Hygiene Products
There are so many products on the market it can become confusing and choosing between all the products can be difficult. Our highly knowledgable staff can help with choosing dental care products that will work for you.

Rotary and sonic electronic toothbrushes are safe and effective for the majority of the patients and provide excellent results. Oral irrigators (water spraying devices) will rinse your mouth thoroughly, but will not remove plaque. You need to brush and floss in conjunction with the irrigator. 

Some toothbrushes have a rubber tip on the handle used to massage the gums after brushing. There are also tiny brushes (interproximal toothbrushes) that clean between your teeth or under bridge work.

Fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses, if used in conjunction with brushing and flossing, can reduce tooth decay as much as 40%. Remember, these rinses are not recommended for children under six years of age. Tartar control toothpastes will reduce tartar above the gum line, but gum disease starts below the gumline so these products have not been proven to reduce the early stage of gum disease.

Anti-plaque rinses, approved by the American Dental Association, contain agents that may help bring early gum disease under control. Use these in conjunction with brushing and flossing.

Professional Cleaning

Daily brushing and flossing is an excellent way to maintain good oral health, but a professional cleaning is still essential to assessing gum and bone health , as well as removing plaque and tartar build up that brushing alone can not. Your visit to our office is an important part of your program to prevent gum disease and the complications that result from it. 

Pediatric Dentistry

Your child's first visit

The first "regular" dental visit should be just after your child’s third birthday. The first dental visit is usually short and involves very little treatment. On some occasions we may ask you to sit in the dental chair and hold your child during the examination. In some cases it is helpful to have a parent wait in the reception area during part of the visit so that a relationship can be built between your child and hygienist and /or dentist.

We will gently examine your child's teeth and gums. X-rays may be taken to reveal decay and check on the progress of your child’s permanent teeth under the gums. We may clean your child’s teeth and apply topical fluoride to help protect the teeth against decay. We will make sure your child is receiving adequate fluoride at home if necessary . Most importantly , we will review with you how to clean and care for your child’s teeth.

What should I tell my child about the first dental visit?

We are asked this question many times. We suggest you prepare your child the same way you would before their first haircut or trip to the shoe store. Your child’s reaction to his or her first visit to the dentist can and should be very pleasant.

Here are some "first visit" tips:

  • Take your child for an non appointed trip to the office during a siblings or parents scheduled visit .
  • Read books with them about going to the dentist.
  • Review with them what the dentist will be doing at the time of the first visit.
  • Speak positively about your own dental experiences.

During your first visit the dentist and hygienist will:

  • Examine your mouth, teeth and gums.
  • Evaluate adverse habits like thumb sucking.
  • Check to see if you need fluoride.
  • Teach you about cleaning your teeth and gums.
  • Suggest a schedule for regular dental visits.

What about preventative care?

Brushing and flossing are your best defense against decay , gingivitis and other undesirable dental conditions. We can show you the best methods and may recommend certain toothpastes or dental sealants to protect teeth from cavities.

Cavity prevention

Most of the time cavities are due to a diet high in sugary foods and a lack of brushing. Limiting sugar intake and brushing regularly, of course, can help. The longer it takes your child to chew their food and the longer the residue stays on their teeth, the greater the chances of getting cavities.

Every time someone eats, an acid reaction occurs inside their mouth as the bacteria digests the sugars. This reaction lasts approximately 20 minutes. During this time the acid environment can destroy the tooth structure, eventually leading to cavities.

Consistency of a person's saliva also makes a difference; thinner saliva breaks up and washes away food more quickly. When a person eats diets high in carbohydrates and sugars they tend to have thicker saliva, which in turn promotes the acid-producing bacteria that can cause cavities.

Tips for cavity prevention

  • Limit frequency of meals and snacks.
  • Encourage brushing, flossing and rinsing.
  • Watch what your child drinks.
  • Avoid giving your child sticky foods.
  • Make treats part of meals.
  • Choose nutritious snacks.

The first baby teeth that come into the mouth are the two bottom front teeth when your baby is about 6-8 months old. Next to follow will be the 4 upper front teeth and the remainder of your baby’s teeth will appear periodically. They will usually appear in pairs along the sides of the jaw until the child is about 2 1/2 years old.

At around 2 1/2 years old your child should have all 20 teeth. Between the ages of 5 and 6 the first permanent teeth will begin to erupt. Some of the permanent teeth replace baby teeth and some don’t. Don’t worry if some teeth are a few months early or late as all children are different.

Baby teeth are important as they not only hold space for permanent teeth but they are important to chewing, biting, speech and appearance. For this reason it is important to maintain a healthy diet and daily hygiene.

Prophylaxis (Teeth Cleaning)

A dental prophylaxis is a cleaning treatment performed to thoroughly clean the teeth and gums. Prophylaxis is an important dental treatment for stopping the progression of gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Prophylaxis is an effective procedure in keeping the oral cavity in proper health and halting the progression of gum disease. The benefits include:

  • Plaque removal. Tartar (also referred to as calculus) and plaque buildup, both above and below the gum line, can result in serious periodontal problems. Unfortunately, even with a proper home brushing and flossing routine, it can be impossible to remove all debris, bacteria and deposits from gum pockets. The experienced eye of a dentist or hygienist using specialized dental equipment is necessary to catch potentially damaging buildup.
  • A healthier looking smile. Stained and yellowed teeth can dramatically decrease the esthetics of a smile. Prophylaxis is an effective treatment in ridding the teeth of these unsightly stains.
  • Fresher breath. Bad breath (or halitosis) is generally indicative of advancing periodontal disease. The routine removal of plaque, calculus and bacteria at our office can noticeably improve halitosis and reduce infection. We recommend that a prophylaxis ( or prophy ) be performed twice annually as a preventative measure, but should be completed every 3-4 months for periodontitis sufferers. It should be noted that gum disease cannot be completely reversed, but prophylaxis is one of the tools we can use to effectively halt its progression.

Periodontal Maintenance

Periodontal diseases are infections of the gums, which gradually destroy the support of your natural teeth. Patients with this condition tend to have more aggressive bacteria and more difficult areas to clean. For this reason we will ask these patients to return an extra time or two per year to maintain ideal oral health. These visits tend to be a little more lengthy than your " average " six month cleaning , but are well worth the time to save your valuable teeth. 

Other Important Factors Affecting the Health of Your Gums Include:
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • Clenching and grinding teeth
  • Medication
  • Poor nutrition

The mechanics of Periodontal Disease

Bacteria found in plaque produces toxins or poisons that irritate the gums, which may cause them to turn red, swell and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth, causing pockets (spaces) to form. As periodontal diseases progress, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorate. If left untreated,  teeth may be lost.

Preventing Gum Disease

The best way to prevent gum disease is effective daily brushing and flossing as well as regular professional examinations and cleanings. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home dental care, people still can develop some form of periodontal disease. Once this disease starts, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progress.