What is the best way to ensure oral hygiene?

There are a few basic rules:

1) Brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day.

2) Avoid smoking or chewing substances like gutka and tobacco.

3) Visit a dentist at least once in six months.

4) And people in the high-risk group, i.e. people who are susceptible to gum cavities and other dental problems, should visit their dentist at least once in three months.

What is the right way to brush and floss?

For brushing:

1) Earlier dentists favoured the up-down stroke. Now the recommended method is the to-and-fro scrub method using small horizontal strokes.

2) Care should be taken to keep the brush pointed towards the gums at an angle of 400, not 900.

For flossing:

1) Use floss that is at least one foot long.

2) Roll both ends of the floss around the middle fingers of both hands. Leave a space of about an inch between both the middle fingers.

3) Hold the floss between two teeth and place it between them.

4) Then pull up against the side of one tooth, following up with the adjacent tooth.

5) Floss all your teeth in this manner, as far as you can reach.

What is the difference between plaque and tartar?

Plaque is the first stage of tartar build-up. It must not be neglected. Any food, especially refined carbohydrates, if not removed through the action of gargling, tends to remain on the surface of the teeth. The bacteria act on it, forming mucopolysacharide (a starchy and sticky substance) over the teeth. This is called plaque. Gargling can help to get rid of these particles, if it is done immediately after eating. Once plaque has been formed, only flossing can help. Gargling or the use of a finger would not help at all.

Tartar is calcified plaque. If you allow plaque to set for 48 hours, the calcium from the plaque gets deposited on the plaque, and tartar is formed. Tartar can be removed only by a dentist.

Are there any dental problems specific to a particular age group?

Adolescents are particularly susceptible to cavities. At this age, one tends to snack very often during the day, most of it being junk food like biscuits and wafers. Also, at this age, the tooth is not fully mature. The second permanent molars and pre-molars are not yet fully calcified, leaving the pits and fissures quite open. Frequent snacking on junk food can worsen the situation.

Elderly people, on the other hand, age fifty on, are susceptible to root caries. This is because at this age, the gums begin to recede, resulting in food accumulating between the teeth. This in turn leads to root caries. However, dental decay as one grows older is not inevitable. Dental problems are caused by neglect. It is quite possible for a person in his late seventies to have stronger teeth than someone in his twenties or thirties, if proper care is taken of them.

How can one prevent the risk of cavities?

Those who suffer from cavities should avoid foods containing sugar, dry fruits like raisins and refined carbohydrates like biscuits. These foods should be avoided, in the interest of stronger teeth. Chocolate, for instance, is sticky, and remains on the teeth for a long time, thus aiding the cause of tooth cavities.

Do colas harm or weaken the teeth?

Periodic consumption of colas can decalcify your teeth. However, an occasional intake of colas cannot harm your teeth. It is when you drink about ten or eleven colas a day, as they do in the West, that you expose your teeth to the risk of decalcification.

Does menopause have any effect on dental health?

No. Menopause has no effect on dental health.

Does pregnancy have any effect on dental health?

Pregnancy does have an effect on the gums. When a woman is pregnant, her body undergoes a number of hormonal changes. This evokes an exaggerated response to tartar or plaque, so there is an increased inflammation of the gums. In medical parlance, this is referred to as Pregnancy Gingivitis. Women frequently tend to disregard this condition, preferring to bear the pain and get it treated only after their pregnancy. It is advised that the woman should visit a dentist and get the cleaning done during pregnancy itself.