General Dentistry

A preventive program is a cooperative effort by the patient, dentist, and dental team to preserve the natural dentition and supporting structures by preventing the onset, progress, and recurrence of dental diseases and conditions. At Heritage Oak Dental we want to preserve your natural dentition because we know it will provide you the best long term service when compared to even the most modern restorative dental procedures.

X-rays (Dental Radiographs) are essential, preventative, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam. Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan. Without x-rays, problem areas would go undetected until the problem was causing greater damage.

Dental Radiographs help reveal:

  • Abscesses or cysts.
  • Bone loss.
  • Cancerous malignant and non-cancerous benign tumors.
  • Decay between the teeth.
  • Developmental abnormalities.
  • Poor tooth and root positions.
  • Problems inside a tooth or below the gum line.

Detecting and treating dental problems at an early stage can save your teeth! It can also help save time, money, and unnecessary discomfort. True dental emergencies, although rare, can become life threatening.

Are Dental X-Rays Safe?

Ionizing radiation is not good for the cells in your body but the truth is we are all exposed to natural radiation in our environment. It is important to keep in mind the dosage or amount and location of ionizing radiation exposure. The amount of radiation exposure from a full mouth series of x-rays is equal to the amount a person receives in a single day from natural sources. This does not mean that we do not take ionizing radiation seriously. We do everything possible to minimize the amount of radiation exposure for our patients. We have invested in equipment and learned techniques that properly shield and limit your exposure but dental x-rays are required for proper diagnosis. The risk posed by dental x-rays is so minimal that it is greatly outweighed by the benefit of diagnosing disease. Dental x-rays at Heritage Oak Dental are safe!

Dental x-rays produce a low level of radiation and are considered safe. Dentists take necessary precautions to limit the patient’s exposure to radiation when taking dental x-rays. These precautions include using lead apron shields to protect the body and using modern digital x-rays that cuts down the radiation and exposure time of each x-ray. Even then we do not treat our dental radiography as a one size fits all approach. We use modern risk assessment techniques to ensure that your dental radiographs are prescribed just for you by the dentist.

How Often Should Dental X-Rays Be Taken?

The need for dental x-rays depends on each patient’s individual dental health needs. Your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend necessary x-rays based on the review of your medical and dental history, dental exam, signs and symptoms, age consideration, and risk for disease.

A full mouth series of dental x-rays is recommended for new patients. A full series is usually good for three to five years. Bite-wing x-rays (x-rays of top and bottom teeth biting together) are taken at recall (check-up) visits and are recommended once or twice a year to detect new dental problems. Panoramic radiographs are important in growing children in the mixed dentition and helpful in gaining a full mouth big picture point of view.

What if I’m pregnant and need a dental radiograph examination?

A radiograph may be needed for dental treatment that can’t wait until after the baby is born. Most dental treatment can not be rendered properly without radiographic examination. Because untreated dental infections can pose a risk to the fetus, dental treatment may be necessary to maintain the health of the mother and child. Radiation exposure resulting from dental X-rays is low. However, every precaution is taken to ensure that radiation exposure is As Low As Reasonably Achievable (the ALARA principle). A leaded apron minimizes exposure to the abdomen and should be used when any dental radiograph is taken. Also, a leaded thyroid collar can protect the thyroid from radiation, and should also be used whenever possible. The use of a leaded thyroid collar is recommended for women of childbearing age, pregnant women and children. Dental X-ray exams do not need to be delayed if you are trying to become pregnant or are breastfeeding.

Digital radiography (digital x-ray) is the latest technology used to take dental x-rays. This technique uses an electronic sensor or CCD instead of x-ray film. The sensor then captures and stores the digital image on a computer. This image can be instantly viewed and enlarged helping the dentist and dental hygienist detect problems easier. Digital x-rays reduce radiation 80-90% compared to the already low exposure of traditional dental x-rays and allow for higher resolution and manipulation by the operator.

Dental x-rays are essential, preventative, diagnostic tools that provide valuable information not visible during a regular dental exam. Dentists and dental hygienists use this information to safely and accurately detect hidden dental abnormalities and complete an accurate treatment plan. Without x-rays, problem areas may go undetected and treatment complications are more prevalent due to the lack of diagnostic information.

The cephalometric X-ray is a unique tool, which enables the dentist to capture a complete radiographic image of the side of the face. X-rays in general offer the dentist a way to view the teeth, jawbone and soft tissues beyond what can be seen with the naked eye. Cephalometric X-rays are extraoral, meaning that no plates or film are inserted inside the mouth. Cephalometric and panoramic X-rays display the mandible, nasal, and sinus passages, which are missed by intraoral bitewing X-rays.

The advantage of both cephalometric and panoramic X-rays is that the body is exposed to less radiation for a larger view of the head and neck.

Cephalometric X-rays are not as common as full mouth series or “full sets” or bitewing X-rays, but they serve several important functions such as:

  • Provide views of the side profile of the face.
  • Provide views of the jaw in relation to the cheekbone.
  • Provide information about “bad bites” or malocclusions.
  • Allow measurement of the teeth.
  • Identify fractures and other injuries to the teeth and jawbone.
  • Assists in orthodontic treatment planning.

How Are Cephalometric X-Rays Taken?

Cephalometric X-rays are completely painless. The head is placed between the mechanical rotating arm and the film holder, which is placed on another arm. After capturing cephalometric X-rays, the dentist will be able to see a complete side profile of the head. This can assist in orthodontic planning, and allow an immediate evaluation of how braces might impact the facial profile and teeth. Another common use for this type of X-ray is to determine specific measurements prior to the creation and placement of dental implants.

If you have any questions or concerns about cephalometric X-rays, please ask us.

Panoramic X-rays are wraparound photographs of the face and teeth. They offer a view that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. X-rays in general, expose hidden structures, such as wisdom teeth, reveal preliminary signs of cavities, and also show fractures and bone loss.

Panoramic X-rays are extraoral and simple to perform. Usually, dental X-rays involve the film being placed inside the mouth, but panoramic film is hidden inside a mechanism that rotates around the outside of the head. Unlike bitewing X-rays that need to be taken every few years, panoramic X-rays are generally only taken on an as-needed basis. A panoramic x-ray is not conducted to give a detailed view of each tooth, but rather to provide a better view of the mandible, sinus areas, nasal areas and mandibular nerve. Panoramic X-rays are preferable to bitewing X-rays when a patient is in extreme pain, and when a sinus problem is suspected to have caused dental problems.

Panoramic X-rays are extremely versatile in dentistry, and are used to:

  • Assess patients with an extreme gag reflex.
  • Evaluate the progression of TMJ.
  • Expose cysts and abnormalities.
  • Expose impacted teeth.
  • Expose jawbone fractures.
  • Plan treatment (full and partial dentures, braces and implants).
  • Reveal gum disease and cavities.

How Are Panoramic X-Rays Taken?

The panoramic X-ray provides the dentist with an ear-to-ear two-dimensional view of both the upper and lower jaw. The most common uses for panoramic X-rays are to reveal the positioning of wisdom teeth and to check whether dental implants will affect the mandibular nerve (the nerve extending toward the lower lip).

The Panorex equipment consists of a rotating arm that holds the X-ray generator, and a moving film attachment that holds the pictures. The head is positioned between these two devices. The X-ray generator moves around the head taking pictures as orthogonally as possible. The positioning of the head and body is what determines how sharp, clear and useful the X-rays will be to the dentist. The pictures are magnified by as much as 30% to ensure that even the minutest detail will be noted.

Panoramic X-rays are an important diagnostic tool and are also valuable for planning future treatment. They are safer than other types of X-ray because less radiation enters the body.

Physicians have relied on computerized axial tomography scans (CAT), for many years. CAT scans are an X-ray procedure that uses many different X-ray images with the help of computers to generate cross-sectional or even 3D views of internal organs and structures within the body. A knee replacement surgery, for example, would never be performed without first examining 3D imaging. Modern dentists now use a 3D digital x-ray technique known as cone beam computed tomography or CBCT.

More recently however, dentists have begun to rely on 3D imaging techniques and CBCT scans to provide them with a detailed view of the mouth and skull. The advantage that 3D imaging holds over regular dental x-rays is that the bone structure, bone density, tissues and nerves can be viewed clearly in their proper anatomical location.

CBCT scans can be completed in less than half a minute. This means that far less radiation enters the body than if a regular set of bitewing x-rays were taken and much less than CAT scans. The main use for CBCT scans is as an aid to plan dental implant treatment, root canal procedures, and other oral surgery.

Dental implants are the most sophisticated replacement for missing teeth, but have historically proven to be time-consuming to place. CBCT scans vastly reduce the time it takes to implant teeth. At Heritage Oak Dental implants can be placed in a single visit because of this unique type of imaging. CBCT has already greatly reduced the amount of discomfort and morbidity associated with dental surgery due to the elimination of explorative procedures and detailed planning.

How Are CBCT Scans Used?

CBCT scans are advantageous because they allow the dentist to magnify specific areas of the face. In addition, the dentist can easily view cross-sectional “slices” of the jaw, which makes planning treatment easier and faster. At Heritage Oak Dental we rely more on the actually anatomical location of structures than an educated guess biased on surgical experience.

Here are some of the main ways in which CBCT scans are used in dentistry:

  • Assess the quality of the jawbone where the implant will be placed.
  • Determine where nerves are located.
  • Diagnose tumors and disease in the early stages.
  • Measure the density of the jawbone where the implant will be placed.
  • Pinpoint the most effective placement for implants, including the angle of best fit.
  • Plan the complete surgical procedure in advance, from start to finish.
  • Precisely decide on the appropriate size and type of implants.
  • View exact orientation and position of each tooth.
  • View impacted teeth.
  • View the morphology of the root canal system.

How Are CBCT Scans Performed?

CBCT scans are quick and simple to perform. The cone beams are used to take literally hundreds of pictures of the face. These pictures are used to compile an exact 3D image of the inner structure of the face and jaw. The dentist is able to zoom in on specific areas and view them from alternate angles. The CBCT scan is an incredible tool that is minimizing the cost of dental treatment, reducing treatment time, and enhancing the end results of dental surgery. At Heritage Oak Dental we utilize a device that can take limited field views to capture the region of interest and limit unnecessary ionizing radiation to the patient. We never use a cookbook approach one size fits all for radiographic analysis of our patients. You deserve customized attention from diagnosis to treatment.

If you have questions or concerns about CBCT scans or 3D imaging, please contact our office.

Dental Exams

A comprehensive dental exam will be performed by your dentist at your initial dental visit. At regular check-up exams, your dentist and hygienist will include the following:

  • Examination of diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): Essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
  • Oral cancer screening: Check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
  • Gum disease evaluation: Check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.
  • Examination of tooth decay: All tooth surfaces will be checked for decay with special dental instruments.
  • Examination of existing restorations: Check current fillings, crowns, etc.

Professional Dental Cleaning

Professional dental cleanings (dental prophylaxis) are performed by Registered Dental Hygienists. Your cleaning appointment will include a dental exam and the following:

  • Removal of calculus or tartar: Calculus is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
  • Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (poisons) that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease!
  • Teeth polishing: Remove stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.

For some patients a dental prophylaxis is not the correct treatment due to their current periodontal health diagnosis. Patients that receive dental cleanings do so as a preventive measure and assumes the patient has a healthy periodontium or area around the teeth. Patients with periodontitis will be treated with scaling and root planing or deep cleanings to manage the chronic inflammatory disease.

According to research conducted by the American Cancer society, more than 30,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year. More than 7,000 of these cases result in the death of the patient. The good news is that oral cancer can easily be diagnosed with an annual oral cancer exam, and effectively treated when caught in its earliest stages.

Oral cancer is a pathologic process which begins with an asymptomatic stage during which the usual cancer signs may not be readily noticeable. This makes the oral cancer examinations performed by the dentist critically important. Oral cancers can be of varied histologic types such as teratoma, adenocarcinoma and melanoma. The most common type of oral cancer is the malignant squamous cell carcinoma. This oral cancer type usually originates in lip and intramural soft tissues the most common sight is the side of the tongue.

There are many different places in the oral cavity and maxillofacial region in which oral cancers commonly occur, including:

  • Lips
  • Mouth
  • Tongue
  • Salivary Glands
  • Oropharyngeal Region (throat)
  • Gums
  • Face

Reasons For Oral Cancer Examinations

It is important to note that around 75 percent of oral cancers are linked with modifiable behaviors such as smoking, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption. We can provide literature and education on making lifestyle changes and smoking cessation. At Heritage Oak Dental we also offer medications for smoking cessation.

When oral cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages, treatment is generally very effective. Any noticeable abnormalities in the tongue, gums, mouth or surrounding area should be evaluated by a health professional as quickly as possible. During the oral cancer exam, the dentist and dental hygienist will be scrutinizing the maxillofacial and oral regions carefully for signs of pathologic changes.

The following signs will be investigated during a routine oral cancer exam:

  • Red patches and sores – Red patches on the floor of the mouth, the front and sides of the tongue, white or pink patches which fail to heal and slow healing sores that bleed easily can be indicative of pathologic (cancerous) changes.
  • Leukoplakia – This is a hardened white or gray, slightly raised lesion that can appear anywhere inside the mouth. Leukoplakia can be cancerous, or may become cancerous if treatment is not sought.
  • Lumps – Soreness, lumps or the general thickening of tissue anywhere in the throat or mouth can signal pathological problems.
  • Altered Sensation – changes in the sensation or feeling of areas of the head and neck can signal pathological, surgical, or neuronal problems.

Oral Cancer Exams, Diagnosis & Treatment

The oral cancer examination is a completely painless process. During the visual part of the examination, the dentist will look for abnormality and feel the face, glands and neck for unusual bumps. Lasers which can highlight pathologic changes are also a wonderful tool for oral cancer checks. The laser can “look” below the surface for abnormal signs and lesions which would be invisible to the naked eye.

If abnormalities, lesions, leukoplakia or lumps are apparent, the dentist will implement a diagnostic impression and treatment plan. In the event that the initial treatment plan is ineffective, a biopsy of the area will be performed. The biopsy includes a clinical evaluation which will identify the precise stage and grade of the oral lesion by histological examination.

Oral cancer is deemed to be present when the basement membrane of the epithelium has been broken. Malignant types of cancer can readily spread to other places in the oral and maxillofacial regions, posing additional secondary threats. Treatment methods vary according to the precise diagnosis, but may include excision, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

During bi-annual check-ups, the dentist and hygienist will thoroughly look for changes and lesions in the mouth, but a dedicated comprehensive oral cancer screening should be performed at least once each year.

If you have any questions or concerns about oral cancer, please contact our office.

Fluoride is the most effective agent available to help prevent tooth decay. It is an ion that is naturally present in varying amounts in almost all foods and water supplies. The benefits of fluoride have been well known for over 50 years and are supported by many health and professional organizations. If your toothpaste or mouth rinse does not contain fluoride using such products is only for psychological comfort and polishing the teeth but does not provide any protective or beneficial action.

Fluoride works in two ways:

Fluoride is incorporated into the tooth structure to make it more insoluble or resistant to acid products made by cariogenic bacteria and it has the ability to help destroy bacteria.

Topical fluoride strengthens the teeth once they have erupted by seeping into the outer surface of the tooth enamel, making the teeth more resistant to decay. We gain topical fluoride by using fluoride containing dental products such as toothpaste, mouth rinses, and gels. Our office recommends that all moderate to high risk individuals have a professional application of fluoride twice a year during dental check-ups.

Systemic fluoride strengthens the teeth that have erupted as well as those that are developing under the gums. We gain systemic fluoride from most foods and our community water supplies. It is also available as a supplement in drop or gel form and can be prescribed by our office or physician. Generally, fluoride drops are recommended for infants, and tablets are best suited for children up through the teen years. It is very important to monitor the amount of fluoride a child ingests. If too much fluoride is consumed while the teeth are developing, a condition called fluorosis (white spots on the teeth) may result.

Although most people receive fluoride from food and water, sometimes it is not enough to help prevent decay. Our office may recommend the use of home and/or professional fluoride treatments for the following reasons:

  • Deep pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of teeth.
  • Exposed and sensitive root surfaces.
  • Fair to poor oral hygiene habits.
  • Frequent sugar and carbohydrate intake.
  • Inadequate exposure to fluoride.
  • Inadequate saliva flow due to medical conditions, medical treatments or medications.
  • Recent history of dental decay.
  • Risk management for caries prevalence.

Remember, fluoride alone will not prevent tooth decay! It is important to brush at least twice a day, floss regularly, eat balanced meals, reduce sugary snacks, and visit our office on a regular basis for a professional cleaning.

We respect your position on fluoride but encourage you to take a scientific look at the evidence supported in the literature not just those published online. Fluoride can be poisonous if too much is ingested. It is important to remember the concentration of the dose and the delivery method for application of fluoride. We like to remind people that even pure water or salt can cause death on the same basis of concentration and delivery by causing systemic imbalances.

A sealant is a thin, plastic coating applied to the chewing surface of molars, premolars and any deep grooves (called pits and fissures) of teeth. More than 75% of dental decay begins in these deep grooves. Teeth with these conditions are hard to clean and are very susceptible to decay. A sealant protects the tooth by sealing deep grooves, creating a smooth, easy to clean surface.

Sealants can protect teeth from decay for many years, but need to be checked for wear and chipping at regular dental visits.

Children and teenagers – As soon as the six-year molars (the first permanent back teeth) appear or any time throughout the cavity prone years of 6-16.

Adults – Tooth surfaces without decay that have deep grooves or depressions.

Baby teeth – Occasionally done if teeth have deep grooves or depressions and child is cavity prone.

What Do Sealants Involve?

Sealants are easily applied by our office and the process takes only a couple of minutes per tooth.

The teeth to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned and then isolated to keep the area dry. A special solution is applied to the enamel surface to help the sealant bond to the teeth. The teeth are then rinsed and dried. Sealant material is carefully painted onto the enamel surface to cover the deep grooves or depressions. Depending on the type of sealant used, the material will either harden automatically or with a special curing light.

Proper home care, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your new sealants.

Quitting tobacco is difficult because all forms of it – cigarettes, cigars and spit (chewing) tobacco – contain nicotine and nicotine is the agent in tobacco that’s capable of causing addiction or dependence. However, you can quit once and for all. The reasons for quitting are simple: You’ll lower the chances of having a heart attack, stroke or cancer, including oral cancer. A smoke-free environment is healthier for those around you. If you’re pregnant, you’ll improve your chances of having a healthy baby. And, the money spent on tobacco can be used on other things.

We want to help in anyway possible and will always respect your right to make your own decisions. We would be happy to provide you with medications that can help you quit the addiction.

What Effects Can Smoking Have On My Oral Health?

  • Oral Cancer
  • Periodontal (gum) disease—a leading cause of tooth loss and sensitivity
  • Delayed healing after a tooth extraction or other oral surgery
  • Few options for some kinds of dental care (smokers can be poor candidates for particular treatments such as implants)
  • Bad breath
  • Stained teeth and tongue
  • Diminished sense of taste and smell

What Effects Can Smokeless Tobacco Have On My Oral Health?

Like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products contain a variety of toxins associated with cancer. At least 28 cancer-causing chemicals have been identified in smokeless tobacco products. Smokeless tobacco is known to cause cancers of the mouth, lips, tongue, and pancreas. Users also may be at risk for cancer of the voice box, esophagus, colon and bladder, because they swallow some of the toxins in the juice created by using smokeless tobacco.

Smokeless tobacco can irritate your gum tissue, causing periodontal (gum) disease. Sugar is often added to enhance the flavor of smokeless tobacco, increasing the risk for tooth decay. Smokeless tobacco also typically contains sand and grit, which can wear down your teeth.

Are Cigars a Safe Alternative To Cigarettes?

Cigars are not a safe alternative to cigarettes. Even if you do not inhale cigar smoke, you are still at risk for oral and pharyngeal (throat) cancers. Like cigarette smokers, cigar smokers are at increased risk for periodontal (gum) disease, a leading cause of tooth loss. In addition to the health risks, cigar smoke, like cigarette smoke can cause staining of the teeth and tongue as well as bad breath.

How Can Tobacco Cause Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

Smoking may be responsible for almost 75% of periodontal diseases among adults. Tobacco products damage your gum tissue by affecting the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. An example of the effect is receding gums. A receding gum line exposes the tooth roots and increases your risk of developing a sensitivity to hot and cold, or tooth decay in these unprotected areas.

How Do I Quit Using Tobacco?

  • Set a date to quit and stick to it. Choose a “low stress” time to quit.
  • Enlist the support of your family, friends and co-workers.
  • Ask your dentist or physician about nicotine replacement therapy for use in cessation attempts. Using these medicines can double your chances of quitting for good.
  • Remove tobacco and tobacco paraphernalia from your home, office and car.
  • Seek tobacco-free environments to curve your temptations.
  • Exercise. It may make you feel better about yourself and your decision to quit smoking.
  • When you crave a tobacco—exercise the 4 D’s:
    • Delay—craving will pass in 5–10 minutes
    • Drink water—it will help to wash the toxins from your body
    • Do something else—distract yourself by being active.
    • Deep breathing—deep inhalations and exhalations are relaxing.
  • Anticipate problems and have a realistic plan to deal with challenges.

Call 1-800-QUITNOW or go to SmokeFree.gov.

Self-Help Tobacco Cessation Tools

National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines

800-QUITNOW (800-784-8669) TTY 800-332-8615

The toll-free number is a single access point to the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines. Callers can speak with a counselor to receive help with quitting smoking, informational materials and referrals to other sources. The Quitline Map of North America provides an interactive map with information available by state regarding services offered and hours of operation.

You Can Quit Smoking

The You Can Quit Smoking Kit from the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office is a one-stop source for information to help smokers become tobacco-free. It contains guideline products designed specifically for consumers that are available in English, Spanish, and easy-to-read format.

American Lung Association

Smoking cessation support is available from the American Lung Association.

You Can Quit Smoking Now!

This website (Smokefree.gov), developed by the National Cancer Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health and others, provides information and professional assistance to help support the immediate and long-term needs of people who want to quit smoking. The site provides:

  • An online step-by-step cessation guide
  • A link to the national telephone quitline
  • NCI’s instant messaging service
  • Publications, which may be downloaded, printed, or ordered

A beautiful, healthy smile that lasts a lifetime is our ultimate goal when treating patients. Your personal home care plays an important role in achieving that goal. Your personal home care starts by eating balanced meals, reducing the number of snacks you eat, and correctly using the various dental aids that help control plaque and bacteria that cause dental disease.

Tooth brushing – Brush your teeth at least twice a day (especially before going to bed at night) with a soft bristle brush and toothpaste with fluoride.

Place the brush at a 45 degree angle to the gums and gently brush using a small, circular motion, ensuring that you always feel the bristles on the gums. Only use two fingers to hold your brush if you find you use to much pressure be warned of the death grip. Brush the outer, inner, and biting surfaces of each tooth. Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside of the front teeth. Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.

Electric toothbrushes are also recommended. They are easy to use and can remove plaque efficiently. Simply place the bristles of the electric brush on your gums and teeth and allow the brush to do its job, several teeth at a time. Slowly move the brush from tooth to tooth pausing to allow the brush to work. Don’t forget all the surfaces mentioned above. A toothbrush is only as good as the person who uses it.

Flossing – Daily flossing is the best way to clean between the teeth and under the gumline. Flossing not only helps clean these spaces, it disrupts plaque colonies from building up, preventing damage to the gums, teeth, and bone.

Take 12-16 inches (30-40cm) of dental floss and wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches (5cm) of floss between the hands. Using your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss, gently insert the floss between teeth using a sawing motion. Curve the floss into a “C” shape around each tooth and under the gumline. Gently move the floss up and down, cleaning the side of each tooth.

Floss holders are recommended if you have difficulty using conventional floss. Water Picks or water jets are effective for cleaning between the teeth if your dexterity is limiting the use of dental floss.

Rinsing – It is important to rinse your mouth with water after brushing, and also after meals if you are unable to brush. If you are using an over-the-counter product for rinsing, it’s a good idea to consult with your dentist or dental hygienist on its appropriateness for you. Rinses with fluoride or brushing with fluoride toothpaste are recommended and require not eating, drinking, or rinsing for 30 minutes to allow the fluoride to become incorporated in the tooth structure.

Use other dental aids as recommended by your dentist or dental hygienist: Interdental brushes, rubber tip stimulators, tongue cleaners, irrigation devices, fluoride, medicated rinses, etc. can all play a role in good dental home care.

Brushing and flossing are of paramount importance to oral hygiene. Though bi-annual professional dental cleanings remove plaque, tartar and debris, excellent home care methods are equally valuable. Proper brushing and flossing can enhance the health of the mouth, make the smile sparkle and prevent serious diseases.

Reasons Why Proper Brushing & Flossing Are Essential

Prevention of tooth decay – Tooth decay is one of the leading causes of tooth loss, and its treatment often requires complex dental procedures. Tooth decay occurs when the acids found in plaque erode the natural enamel found on the teeth. This phenomenon can easily be prevented by using proper home hygiene methods.

Prevention of periodontal disease – Periodontal disease is a serious, progressive condition which can cause tooth loss, gum recession and jawbone recession. Periodontal disease is caused by a multifactorial complex biological phenomenon that start with the toxins found in plaque, and can lead to serious health problems in other parts of the body. Removing plaque and calculus (tartar) from the surface of the tooth using a toothbrush, and from the interdental areas using dental floss, is an excellent way to stave off periodontal problems.

Prevention of halitosis – Bad breath or halitosis is usually caused by old food particles on or between the teeth. These food particles can be removed with regular brushing and flossing; leaving the mouth healthier, and breath smelling fresher.

Prevention of staining – Staining or the yellowing of teeth can be caused by a wide variety of factors such as smoking, coffee and tea. The more regularly these staining agents are removed from the teeth using brushing and flossing techniques, the less likely it is that the stains will become permanent. You can limit the effects of the products by tapering off the use of such agents or using a straw for example when drinking.

The Proper Way to Brush

The teeth should be brushed at least twice a day; ideally in the morning and before bed. The perfect toothbrush is small in size with soft, rounded-end bristles and no more than three months old. The head of the brush needs to be small enough to access all areas of the mouth, and the bristles should be soft enough so as not to cause undue damage to the gum tissue. The American Dental Association (ADA) has given electric toothbrushes their seal of approval; stating that those with rotating or oscillating heads are more effective than other toothbrushes. At Heritage Oak Dental we recommend Sonicare toothbrushes but the truth of the matter is that whatever toothbrush you actually will use is the best toothbrush for you!

Here is a basic guide to proper brushing:

  • Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle where the gums and teeth meet.
  • Use small circular motions to gently brush the gum line and teeth.
  • Do not scrub or apply too much pressure to the teeth, as this can damage the gums and tooth enamel. Try using only two fingers to hold the brush.
  • Brush every surface of every tooth, cheek-side, tongue-side, and chewing surfaces. Place special emphasis on the surfaces of the back teeth.
  • Use back and forth strokes to brush the chewing surfaces.
  • Brush the tongue to remove fungi, food and debris.

The Proper Way to Floss

Flossing is a great way to remove plaque from the interdental regions (between the teeth). Flossing is an especially important tool for preventing cavities between the teeth. The interdental regions are difficult to reach with a toothbrush and should be cleansed with dental floss on a daily basis. The flavor and type of floss are unimportant; choose floss that will be easy and pleasant to use. Improper flossing techniques can cause damage to the tissues surrounding the tooth.

Here Is a Basic Guide to Proper Flossing:

  • Cut a piece of floss to around 18 inches long.
  • Wrap one end of the floss around the middle finger of the left hand and the other end around the middle finger of the right hand until the hands are 2-3 inches apart.
  • Work the floss gently between the teeth toward the gum line.
  • Curve the floss in a U-shape around each individual tooth and carefully slide it beneath the gum line.
  • Carefully move the floss up and down several times to remove interdental plaque and debris.
  • Do not pop the floss in and out between the teeth as this will inflame and cut the gums.
  • If you have a bridge or orthodontic wire it is important to use a threading device to help slide under the obstruction

If you have any questions about the correct way to brush or floss, please ask your dentist or dental hygienist.

Preventing dental disease starts at home with good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and a healthy lifestyle. It is continued in the dental office by the efforts of your dental home to promote, restore, and maintain your oral health.

Prevention includes regular dental exams, x-rays, and cleanings. Sealants and fluoride are also great preventive treatments that help protect the teeth and more than pay for themselves in avoiding future more invasive treatments. Besides prevention helping to avoid serious and costly dental problems, sound dental preventive treatments are the key to having a healthy, confident, and comfortable, smile.