Oral Hygiene

Why Is Oral Hygiene So Important?

Dr. Lewis knows that optimum dental health results from his staff and patients working together. Good home care helps you to keep your mouth clean and healthy in between your Penobscot Bay Dentistry office visits. There are many ways you can optimize the health of your teeth and gums.

photo of a toothbrush and toothpaste

Adults over 35 lose more teeth to gum disease (periodontal disease) than to cavities. At some point in their lives, three out of four adults are affected by gum disease, and there are now proven correlations between having gum disease and other systemic diseases. The best way to prevent cavities and periodontal disease is by good, daily tooth brushing and flossing.

Periodontal disease and tooth decay are both caused by bacterial plaque. Plaque is a colorless film that constantly forms and sticks to your teeth at the gum line. If plaque is not removed effectively every day, it hardens into tartar (also called calculus). By thorough daily brushing and flossing, you can remove plaque and help prevent periodontal disease.

How To Brush Properly

While brushing the outside surfaces of your teeth, position the brush at a 45-degree angle where your gums and teeth meet. Gently move the brush in a circular motion several times using small, gentle strokes. Use light pressure while putting the bristles between your teeth, but not so much pressure that you feel any discomfort.

When you are done cleaning the outside surfaces of all your teeth, follow the same directions to clean the inside of the back teeth.

To clean the inside surfaces of the upper and lower front teeth, hold the brush vertically. Make several gentle back-and-forth strokes over each tooth. Remember to gently brush the surrounding gum tissue.

Next, clean the biting surfaces of your teeth by using short, gentle strokes. Change the position of the brush as often as necessary to reach and clean all surfaces. Try to watch yourself in the mirror to make sure you clean each surface. After you are done, rinse vigorously to remove any plaque you might have loosened while brushing.

How To Floss Effectively

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 correct technique. The following instructions will help you, but be patient with yourself: learning to floss properly takes some time and practice.

Start with a piece of floss (waxed is often easier) 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. Do not force the floss or try to snap it in place. Bring the floss to the gum line 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 to clean both tooth surfaces in each space between teeth.

Continue to floss each side of all the upper teeth. Be careful not to cut the gum tissue between the teeth. As the floss becomes soiled, turn from one finger to the other to get a fresh section.

To clean between the bottom teeth, guide the floss using the forefinger of both hands. Do not forget the backside 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 slightly or are a little sore. If your gums hurt while flossing, you could be doing it too hard or pinching the gum. As you floss daily and remove the plaque, your gums will heal and the bleeding should stop.

Caring For Sensitive Teeth

Sometimes after dental treatment, teeth are sensitive to hot and cold. This should not last long, provided your mouth is kept clean. If your mouth is not kept clean, the sensitivity will remain and could become more severe. If your teeth are especially sensitive, consult with Dr. Lewis, who may recommend a medicated toothpaste or mouth rinse made especially for sensitive teeth.

Choosing Oral Hygiene Products

There are so many products on the market that it may become confusing, and choosing between all the products can be difficult. Here are some suggestions for choosing dental care products that will work for most patients.
photo of dental care products
Automatic and high-tech electronic toothbrushes are safe and effective for the majority of patients. Oral irrigators (water spraying devices) will rinse your mouth thoroughly but will not remove plaque. You need to brush and floss in conjunction with an irrigator. Penobscot Bay Dentistry patients see excellent results with Sonicare and Oral-B electric toothbrushes.

Some toothbrushes have a rubber tip on the handle; this is used to massage the gums after brushing. There are also tiny brushes (interproximal toothbrushes) that clean between your teeth. If used improperly, these can injure the gums, so be sure to discuss their proper use with Dr. Lewis.

If used in conjunction with brushing and flossing, fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses can reduce tooth decay by as much as 40 percent. 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 gum line, 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 will keep plaque and tartar to a minimum, but a professional cleaning will remove tartar in places your toothbrush and floss have missed. Regular Penobscot Bay Dentistry office visits are an important part of your program to prevent gum disease and to keep your teeth healthy for a lifetime.


Good nutrition plays a large role in your dental health. Brushing and flossing help keep your teeth and gums healthy and strong. However, a balanced diet will help to boost your bodys immune system, leaving you less vulnerable to oral disease.

What you eat and how often you do so affect your dental health. The bacteria in your mouth thrive when you eat starchy foods such as crackers, bread, cookies and candy, producing acids that attack your teeth for up to 20 minutes or more.

Foods that stick to your teeth or are slow to dissolvesuch as granola bars, chewy fruit snacks, dried fruit and hard candygive the acids more time to work on destroying tooth enamel.

Sticky and starchy foods create less acid when eaten as part of a meal. Saliva production increases at meals, rinsing away food particles and neutralizing harmful acids. Foods such as nuts, cheese, onions and some teas have been shown to slow the growth of decay-causing bacteria in the mouth.