How to control plaque and prevent gum disease

Bacterial plaque along the gum line is the root cause of periodontal disease – an oral condition that can take a huge toll on your oral and general health. Through the right dental treatment, this oral condition can be stopped, but its damaging effects on your teeth and gums cannot be reversed with regard to tooth, gum and bone loss.

It’s not all bad news. Modern restorative dentistry can work wonders. For example, dental implants, bridges and gum/bone grafts can replace the teeth, gum and bone lost to periodontal disease. But when you add up the effects of the disease and the costs of restorative treatment – experiencing periodontal disease can cost you dearly in many ways.

However, there are a few low-cost, plaque-busting techniques and aids that can effectively remove and control plaque along your gum line.

One of these techniques is simply brushing your teeth, which everyone does – but don’t become too complacent if you do. Even though the “brush twice daily and floss” routine is ingrained in each of us from an early age, oral habits can slip over time, and you may be just going through the motions. You might think that you have removed all of the plaque on your teeth, but neglecting those hard-to-reach areas on a daily basis, makes them vulnerable to hidden plaque accumulation and development.

The following tips, recommended cleaning techniques and invaluable oral care aids can assist with total plaque control:

  • Have a plaque-buster attitude! Every time you brush your teeth, be meticulous. Keep in mind the end goal of removing every single piece of plaque attached to your tooth surfaces.
  • Hold your toothbrush correctly. Holding your toothbrush in a pinch grip (using your thumb and index finger) allows you to control it better and apply the right amount of pressure while brushing – as opposed to holding your toothbrush in a palm grasp (using your four fingers and thumb).
  • Use the correct tooth brushing technique. Plaque is a sticky bio-film so a gentle horizontal “scrubbing” technique with a dense-bristled, soft-to-medium toothbrush is the most effective way to dislodge it. Electric toothbrushes with a similar head movement are superior to manual toothbrushes while gentle on your gums. Avoid excess pressure and abrasion on your gums which can increase gum recession.
  • Floss and use an interdental brush. For interdental spaces, curve floss thread around back teeth, and use a gentle up-down motion to remove plaque. Interdental flossers can be used in the same way. Follow up with an interdental brush for interdental spaces between front teeth. Use a gentle full-length, in-out motion, and use the correct sized brush to fit the space being cleaned.
  • Plaque disclosing tablets. Plaque is almost colourless, which can make it hard to spot, even if you are looking right at it. Disclosing tablets stain plaque on all your tooth surfaces, making it easy to spot and remove.
  • Mouth wash/rinses. Mouthwashes reduce and inhibit plaque reformation, and are the final step to remove plaque residue dislodged in the cleaning process. It also leaves your mouth feeling clean and fresh.
  • Use a dental mirror to inspect the back of your teeth. The bathroom mirror only gives you a front view of your teeth, but when used in conjunction with a small handheld disposable dental mirror, you can see areas behind your teeth. Useful for spotting hidden plaque and food residue. Use together with plaque disclosing tablets.
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  • Professional clean and scale from your dental hygienist. Regular visits to your dentist/hygienist are an essential back-up to your primary home oral-care routine. Your dentist/hygienist can provide careful, gentle scaling to remove any small pockets of tartar (hardened plaque) which cannot be removed with a toothbrush.

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