What does it mean and what is its purpose?

In order to prevent oral cavity diseases, thorough hygiene at home and regular hygienist appointments are necessary every 6 months, in non-pathological cases.  You should brush your teeth 3 times a day for an average of around 2 minutes each time and if done thoroughly, this helps to keep all anatomical structures of the oral cavity healthy, here are a few examples:

The periodontium, a support area beneath the mucosa, connected to the oral cavity by a groove called the “gingival sulcus”; in some situations it may become deeper, resulting in the formation of a “periodontal pocket“, where subgingival plaque accumulates, leading to a series of diseases which over time may even lead to loss of the dental element.

Healthy gums are coral pink in colour and sometimes have an orange peel appearance. The first sign of disease in gingival structures is reddening with a loss of adhesion of dental elements and small bleeding phenomena during brushing; as the inflammatory state becomes chronic, it approaches the root. This in turn results in increasingly sensitive teeth.

Each tooth has a particular shape, closely correlated with its function  and therefore maintaining or restoring it is highly important for the stomatognathic apparatus. Brushing your teeth correctly prevents the formation of plaque, which once present on teeth can solidify, forming tartar. The earliest formations of plaque may form in just a few hours and calcify in 7-10 days.

What is tartar?

There are two kinds of tartar: supragingival tartar forms above the gum and is therefore highly visible; subgingival tartar is less visible but more pathogenic, as in addition to damaging the dental element, it also separates it from support tissues, namely bone and gum. Usually the presence of tartar is visible as it varies from white-yellow when it initially forms, to yellow-brick colour with the passing of time.

What tooth brush is it best to use and which techniques are necessary for correct oral hygiene?

There is no such thing as a better tooth brush, rather there is a suitable toothbrush for each person, taking into consideration factors such as: gum type (thin or thick), the position of teeth, eating habits, and so on. In general it can be said that the use of a medium-soft tooth brush with synthetic bristles is advised. Teeth should be brushed 3 times a day: after breakfast, after lunch and after dinner; exaggerating and brushing up to 5-6 times per day (or never brushing) may determine the onset of different diseases. The recommended brushing technique is to start from the teeth and work towards the cusps or incisal edges, never the other way round, as you risk packing the plaque beneath the gingival sulcus. One valid technique is known as “modified bass”. Find out more on this page. (Always remember that only your dentist can advise on the correct technique for your specific clinical case).

Excessive force is not necessary, as if there is any hardened tartar, you will never be able to remove it with your toothbrush; the aim is to remove plaque and food residue. Brushing too hard can damage dental enamel and cement, with a consequent increased in tooth sensitivity. An electric toothbrush can be a valid alternative to a manual one; the best ones on the market rotate 180°, with a backwards and forwards action and a gently vibrating head. Dental floss is also very important as it is much more effective than a toothbrush in the removal of plaque and food which builds up in between teeth. There are also interdental brushes and other devices like hydropulsers, used mostly in pathological cases or for special dental prostheses. Lastly, it is important for us to consider another fundamental aspect: you should dedicate the right amount to time to brushing your teeth; we recommend at least one minute for the lower arch and one minute for the upper arch.

Is oral hygiene the same for children?

In children, prevention consists of thorough oral hygiene at home and the use of fluoride, which during enamel formation, protects against decay. Fluoride is contained in commonly used substances (and not just in water and chewing gums you see on tv); sometimes it must be administered in pills. A hygienist’s appointment may also be necessary. Another way of protecting freshly erupted (permanent) teeth, is fissure sealing, exclusively performed at a professional surgery.

Have I cleaned my teeth well?

Colouring “Plaque disclosing tablets” may also be used in addition to all these hygiene measures. These tablets dissolve in the mouth and release a dye (often basic fuchsin) which binds to bacterial residue, enabling us to check the effectiveness of our actions or otherwise. Thorough brushing removes the dye, without leaving any stains.