Oral hygiene

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Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping the mouth and teeth clean in order to prevent dental problems and bad breath.

Teeth cleaning

Teeth cleaning is the removal of dental plaque and tartar from teeth in order to prevent cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. The latter causes at least one-third of adult tooth loss.

Dentists recommend that teeth be cleaned professionally at least twice per year. Professional cleaning includes tooth scaling, tooth polishing, and if too much tartar has built up, debridement. This is usually followed by a fluoride treatment.

However, in between cleanings by a dental hygienist, good oral hygiene is essential for preventing tartar build-up which causes the problems mentioned above. This is done by carefully and frequently brushing with a toothbrush and the use of dental floss, which helps prevent build-up of plaque-producing bacteria on the teeth.[1]

Gum care

Massaging gums is generally recommended for good oral health.

Food and drink in relation to oral hygiene

Foods that help muscles and bones also help teeth and gums. Dairy contributes vitamin D, strengthening teeth. Breads and cereals are rich in vitamin B while fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, both of which contribute to healthy gum tissue.(8) Lean meat, fish, and poultry provide magnesium and zinc for teeth. Some people recommend that teeth be brushed after every meal and at bedtime, and flossed at least once per day, preferably at night before sleep. For some people, flossing might be recommended after every meal.


Some foods may protect against cavities. Milk and cheese appear to be able to raise pH values in the mouth, and so reduce tooth exposure to acid. They are also rich in calcium and phosphate, and may also encourage remineralisation. All foods increase saliva production, and since saliva contains buffer chemicals this helps to stabilise the pH at just above 7 in the mouth. Foods high in fiber may also help to increase the flow of saliva. Unsweetened (sugar free) chewing gum stimulates saliva production, and helps to clean the surface of the tooth.(8)


Sugars are commonly associated with dental cavities. Other carbohydrates, especially cooked starches, e.g. crisps/potato chips, may also damage teeth, although to a much lesser degree. This is because starch is not an ideal food for the bacteria. It has to be converted by enzymes in saliva first.[2]

Sucrose (table sugar) is most commonly associated with cavities, although glucose and maltose seem equally likely to cause cavities. The amount of sugar consumed at any one time is less important than how often food and drinks that contain sugar are consumed. The more frequently sugars are consumed, the greater the time during which the tooth is exposed to low pH levels, at which point demineralisation occurs. It is important therefore to try to encourage infrequent consumption of food and drinks containing sugar so that teeth have a chance to repair themselves. Obviously, limiting sugar-containing foods and drinks to meal times is one way to reduce the incidence of cavities.

Artificially refined sugar is not the only type that can promote dental cavities. There are also sugars found in fresh fruit and fruit juices. These foods (oranges, lemons, limes, apples, etc.) also contain acids which lower the pH level. On the other hand, carbonic acid found in soda water is very weakly acidic (pH 6.1), and not associated with dental cavities (provided the soft drink is sugar free, of course). That said, soft drinks are not as healthy for the teeth as milk, because of their lower pH and calcium. Drinking sugared soft drinks throughout the day raises the risk of dental cavities tremendously.

Another factor which affects the risk of developing cavities is the stickiness of foods. Some foods or sweets may stick to the teeth and so reduce the pH in the mouth for an extended time, particularly if they are sugary. It is important that teeth be cleaned at least twice a day, preferably with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, to remove any food sticking to the teeth. Regular brushing and the use of dental floss also removes the dental plaque coating the tooth surface.

Chewing gum assists oral irrigation between and around the teeth, cleaning and removing particles, but for teeth in poor condition it may damage or remove loose fillings as well.(5)

Smoking and chewing tobacco are both linked with multiple dental hazards. Regular vomiting, as seen in those who practice bulimia, also causes significant damage.


Mouthwash or mouth rinse improve oral hygiene. Dental gums claim to improve dental health.

Retainers- can be cleaned in mouthwash or denture cleaning fluid.[3] Dental braces may be recommended by a dentist for best oral hygiene and health. Dentures, retainers, and other appliances must be kept extremely clean. This includes regular brushing and may include soaking them in a cleansing solution.[4]

See also


  1. Curtis, Jeannette (13 November 2007), Effective Tooth Brushing and Flossing., WebMD, retrieved 2007-12-24
  2. Oral & Dental Health Basics, 16 November 2007, retrieved 2007-12-24
  3. Dental Appliances, Dentistry.com, 13 November 2007, retrieved 2007-12-24
  4. Keeping Your Braces Clean and Comfortable., Archwired.com, 13 November 2007, retrieved 2007-12-24

5. Foods for Healthy Teeth, Maryland: Office of Oral Health Family Health Administration. Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. |access-date= requires |url= (help)

Benkert, Brandy (11 September 2007.), (BSRDH, RDA) "DH 100-01", Delta Community College, Michigan Check date values in: |date= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)

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