Questions & Answers with Emily, our Dental Therapist and Hygienist

In our latest blog we chat to our friendly Dental Therapist Emily about all things oral hygiene and how to keep your mouth and teeth in tip top condition.

Emily has been working at The Waterside Dental Clinic since 2021 and is one of our dental therapists and hygienists as part of our clinical team.

Graduating from University in 2017 Emily has worked for a range of NHS and private dental clinics before taking up her role at The Waterside Dental Clinic. Emily loves being part of our exceptional team and gets the most satisfaction out of seeing her patients benefit from her advice and treatment.

We put to Emily a series of our most frequently asked questions related to dental hygiene, read on to find out what she has to say…

What is the role of a dental hygienist?

As dental hygienists, our role is to care for your oral health by focusing on effective oral hygiene practices to prevent the need for dental treatments. We ensure you’re doing the best at-home routines to maintain clean teeth, remove any plaque or calculus buildup, and even address staining concerns, ultimately promoting optimal oral health.

Why are regular dental hygiene visits important for maintaining oral health?

Regular hygiene visits play a crucial role in maintaining optimal oral hygiene. Even if you diligently follow a solid brushing and cleaning routine at home, there are certain limitations to what can be achieved, especially when it comes to addressing stubborn calculus buildup that requires professional attention.

During your oral hygiene appointment, we focus on the removal of bacteria and biofilm buildup. Neglecting this aspect can potentially lead to gum disease and the need for fillings down the line.

By consistently maintaining excellent oral care habits at home and complementing them with regular hygiene visits, you significantly reduce the risk of requiring future dental treatments, such as fillings or restorative work on your teeth.

What are the key steps in a typical dental hygiene appointment and how often should one be scheduled?

When you arrive at the clinic, the first step will involve discussing your at-home dental care routine. We’ll go over your oral hygiene practices, your brushing techniques for both teeth and gums, and delve into your dietary habits, paying particular attention to sugar consumption.

Following this discussion, we’ll thoroughly examine your mouth, check the condition of your gums and teeth, and address any necessary cleaning to remove plaque or calculus buildup. Additionally, we’ll provide teeth polishing, especially if there are any stains present.

In the final phase of your appointment, we’ll walk you through our recommendations for maintaining excellent oral hygiene, including brushing techniques, the use of interdental brushes and picks for cleaning between your teeth and the benefits of mouthwash.

As a general guideline, we advise scheduling a hygiene appointment every six months. However, if you’re experiencing any gum health issues, such as gum bleeding or indeed if you have any dental implants, we may recommend more frequent visits, perhaps every three months.

What is the connection between oral health and overall health and how can good dental hygiene contribute to overall well-being?

Oral hygiene has a significant impact on your overall health.

Established connections exist between gum disease and conditions such as diabetes, while potential links have been suggested between gum disease and heart issues. Therefore, maintaining your oral health and eliminating bacteria from your gums and teeth is really important, as it directly impacts your overall well-being.

Failure to maintain good oral health and experiencing gum disease can result in bone loss around your teeth, causing them to become loose and unstable. Ultimately, this could lead to tooth loss, which can affect your speech, eating and overall quality of life.

To prevent such issues and maintain a healthy state, we strongly recommend regular hygiene visits.

What are some common oral hygiene mistakes people make and how can they be avoided?

One common mistake people often make in their oral hygiene routine is rinsing their mouth after brushing. When you use mouthwash or even just rinse with water immediately after brushing, you end up washing away the beneficial fluoride from your toothpaste. It’s important to keep that fluoride around your teeth for as long as possible, so remember not to rinse after brushing.

Another common error is when people notice bleeding while using interdental brushes or brushing their teeth, and they stop cleaning those areas. The reason gums bleed is typically due to leftover plaque or bacteria, so the right approach is to clean those areas more thoroughly rather than avoiding them.

Now, let’s talk about how diet and nutrition impact oral health and whether certain foods are particularly beneficial or harmful to teeth and gums.

Diet plays a significant role in the overall health of your mouth, especially when it comes to your teeth and preventing tooth decay. Foods high in sugar should be minimised, especially as snacks between meals. While we all enjoy indulging in chocolates and biscuits, the key oral health message is to consume them during mealtimes. It’s important to avoid sugary foods and treats between meals.

Additionally, fizzy drinks are known to contribute to tooth decay. It’s not about completely avoiding them but rather limiting their consumption and ideally having them only during mealtimes whenever possible.

What is the proper way to brush and floss teeth for the best results?

For the most effective brushing and flossing results, it’s essential to brush at least twice a day and I highly recommend using an electric toothbrush. Specifically, I suggest using an Oral B toothbrush with a small circular head because it performs small circular movements, which are the most effective way to remove plaque from your teeth.

In addition to brushing your teeth, it’s crucial to pay attention to your gums. Plaque bacteria tend to accumulate along the gum line where the tooth meets the gum, so your toothbrush should effectively clean these areas.

When it comes to cleaning between your teeth, it’s important to consider the size of the gaps between them. Whether you use floss or interdental brushes, the key takeaway is that it should always fit snugly. If it feels too loose in the gap, it won’t effectively remove plaque.

These are some of the topics we’ll cover during your hygiene visits.

What are the warning signs of gum disease and how can it be prevented and treated?

The primary warning sign of gum disease is bleeding gums.

I often say, ‘Healthy gums don’t bleed.’ So, if you’re experiencing bleeding from your gums, it’s an indication of gum disease.

In such cases, it’s crucial to focus on cleaning those areas more diligently and thoroughly. What we absolutely want to avoid is neglecting those areas, as it can lead to further bacterial buildup. If we persist and continue cleaning effectively, it can help reduce inflammation and eliminate plaque, ultimately promoting healthier gums.

Can you offer advice on selecting the right toothbrush, toothpaste and other oral hygiene products?

I always recommend using an electric toothbrush, especially one from Oral B with a small circular head. The circular motion it provides is the most effective way to remove plaque from your teeth. Other electric toothbrush brands are also suitable, as long as you use them with the correct technique, employing a circular motion.

When it comes to toothpaste, as long as it contains fluoride, there’s no specific need to opt for any particular brand.

If you happen to experience tooth sensitivity, such as discomfort with cold foods or drinks, it’s advisable to use a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. The key ingredient to look for in this case is fluoride. As long as your toothpaste includes fluoride, you don’t necessarily need to switch brands; simply stick with the one you prefer.

Are there special oral care considerations for children, teenagers and older adults?

For children of all age groups, ensuring that they receive fluoride for their teeth is crucial, and this is typically found in toothpaste. The variation in recommendations comes into play when considering whether they are at a high risk for tooth decay or gum disease.

If a child is at high risk, we may recommend the use of a mouthwash, but it’s essential to use it at a separate time from brushing.

Diet also plays a significant role, as children often have a fondness for sweets and chocolate. While indulging in moderation is acceptable, it’s best to avoid them as snacks and, ideally, consume them during meal times.

How can one effectively deal with bad breath and when should it be a cause for concern?

Bad breath can often be a sign of lingering plaque bacteria. Improving your brushing technique and thoroughly cleaning the spaces between your teeth with interdental brushes can go a long way in alleviating that unpleasant feeling of bad breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth.

Using a mouthwash can also prove highly beneficial, but it’s important to remember to use it at a different time from when you brush your teeth.

Another potential cause of bad breath is a dry mouth. If you tend to sleep with your mouth open and wake up with bad breath, it’s essential to keep your mouth as hydrated as possible. Regularly sipping water can help in this regard.

If you find yourself waking up with bad breath, a thorough cleaning and flossing between your teeth can make a significant difference in targeting these areas effectively.

What role does fluoride play in dental hygiene and is it necessary for everyone?

Fluoride plays a crucial role in safeguarding our teeth against the sugars and acids we encounter in the foods we consume daily.

In essence, fluoride is a key ingredient that significantly contributes to lowering your risk of tooth decay. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that your toothpaste contains fluoride, and if you’re also using a mouthwash, it’s ideal for it to contain fluoride as well.

Just remember to use the mouthwash at a different time from when you brush your teeth, so you don’t wash away all the goodness provided by the toothpaste.

What advice do you have for individuals with dental anxiety or phobias to make their dental appointments more comfortable?

Visiting The Waterside Dental Clinic is the initial step in addressing dental anxiety. Our team at The Waterside Dental Clinic is known for its friendliness and we go the extra mile to create a relaxed and comfortable environment during your appointment.

When you inform us about your dental anxieties, it allows us to take a slow, step-by-step approach to ensure your utmost comfort.

Furthermore, if you’re feeling nervous about receiving treatment, taking proactive measures with your cleaning and flossing routine at home can reduce the extent of work required when you come to the practice.

Can you share some tips for maintaining oral health while traveling or in situations where regular dental care is not readily available?

Taking steps to maintain the health of your teeth and gums at home is always a positive move in the right direction.

When you’re traveling or on vacation, some individuals opt for a manual toothbrush, which is perfectly acceptable as long as you employ the correct technique, essentially using a circular brushing motion. We often discuss brushing techniques during your hygiene visits.

People tend to overlook their interdental brushes and picks when they go on holiday but there’s really no substitute for these tools. If possible, consider bringing them along and using them regularly while you’re away. The more you incorporate them into your routine, the greater the benefits they can offer.

Closing thoughts

It is clear that good oral hygiene is not only important for healthy teeth and gums but has a big effect on your overall health and well-being.

By having good routines, the right kind of toothbrush, using mouthwash and interdental brushes and having a healthy diet, you are giving yourself the best possible chance of having healthy teeth and gums!

If you’d like to be cared for by our professional and expert team of clinicians and dentists please get in touch to arrange your consultation.

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