What can I do at home to have clean, fresh, healthy teeth and gums?
Oral health starts at home with regular thorough tooth-brushing, flossing and alcohol-free oral mouth rinses. Too often patients have never been given instructions on how to properly carry out brushing or flossing. See our articles on brushing and flossing for some useful tips. We would be happy to discuss brushing and flossing techniques at your next appointment.
Do you have a certain toothpaste that you recommend?
Yes, we recommend toothpastes that have been approved by the Canadian Dental Association. Look for the seal of approval from the Canadian Dental Association, and for the toothpaste to contain sodium fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate to help strengthen the teeth and minimize tooth decay. Your Victoria dentist recommends against using whitening toothpastes because of the risk of greater abrasiveness wearing of the tooth enamel or porcelain finish of crowns and veneers.
Do I have to floss? Can I just use a mouth rinse instead?
Yes. Flossing is a necessary and important part of your oral hygiene regiment. For any two teeth that are in contact with each other, flossing is the only effective means to clean in those spots where caries (cavities) often start developing. Mouth rinses, especially the alcohol free variety containing fluoride help with a clean and fresh mouth but do not replace flossing. As an analogy for those interested in car safety, a seat belt is not replaced by airbags and neither replace quality working brakes.
How often should I be seeing a dentist?
Most Canadians are typically recommended to see their dentist approximately twice a year. However, this is really only a rule of thumb. At Broad Street Dental Centre, we tailor your recall exam and hygienist visits based on your needs and your dental history. For example, a patient with a history of tooth decay and gum or bone disease needs much greater attention and maintenance. Please feel free to talk to us if you feel that you need additional attention for optimal oral health. Your dental plan will often allow for additional dental visits if there is evidence of additional need.
Why do I get cavities?
Cavities are also know as dental caries. They are direct result of having three conditions in your mouth at once: 1. at least one tooth 2. bacteria that release acid as a byproduct of them metabolizing sugar as a source of food and 3. regular exposure to sugar in its various forms as part of our diet. Bacteria naturally live in our mouths and on our teeth. However, scientists and dentists have identified some particular strains of bacteria, Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus species as being most associated with cavities. Patients who already have cavities will have a greater number of these harmful bacterial and have a much greater chance of passing these bacteria onto close family and friends. When these bacteria are exposed to sugar with regular frequency the bacteria will grow and produce acids. These acids will then break down the enamel and dentin of your tooth, causing cavities.
How do I prevent cavities?
If you read the previous question and answer, then you will understand that preventing cavities entails addressing the three factors that are necessary for having caries in the first place:
1. Tooth - strengthen the tooth introducing fluoride when the tooth is developing or directly to the surface enamel once the tooth has already erupted. Fix any tooth decay early to prevent more bacteria from inhabiting inside a depression in the tooth.
2. Bacteria - you will never "sterilize" your mouth from bacteria, and the truth is most bacteria play a helpful role in the protection of the mouth. The goal is to stop bacteria sticking to the surfaces of the teeth and under the gums by thoroughly brushing and flossing. Treat tooth decay in the whole family, because one person who has untreated decay will carry a significantly greater number of the harmful bacteria.
3. Sugars - you cannot stop eating sugar together, but our North American diet is generally much too high in refined sugars. Unless directed by your physician or dietitian, foods either high in sugar or with added sugar should be avoided or eaten at meal times and not sipped or eaten over long periods in a grazing manner.
Is there fluoride in the water of Victoria, BC?
No, there is not significant amount of fluoride in the water to provide dental benefits. The Capital Regional District which manages the supply of drinking water to the Greater Victoria area does not add additional fluoride to the water source. In spite of the well documented dental benefits from the addition of fluoride this position is unlikely to change in the near future. You can discuss your or your family's particular situation with a dentist, but fluoride supplement tablets are typically not recommended anymore because of the risk of fluorosis (or white discolouration of the teeth) when excess fluoride supplements are give to children. In high caries risk cases, a topical fluoride varnish can be applied and as been shown to be very effective in preventing or arresting certain caries.
Why does my Victoria dentist recommend fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses?
Fluoride works on the teeth by incorporating itself into the structure of the tooth and making it more resistant to acid attack.
How do I prevent gum disease (gingivitis)?
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums; patients notice red, swollen, painful or bleeding gums. It is caused by poor hygiene (buildup of bacteria in plaque deposits), pregnancy (fluctuation of hormone levels) or systemic disease such as diabetes. Gingivitis is made worse by smoking, certain medications or conditions of teeth or dental work in the mouth that prevent thorough cleaning.
Fortunately, gingivitis can be relatively easy to managed with good dental hygiene at home. Proper brushing with either a manual or electric toothbrush and flossing to prevent tooth decay will also address gum disease. Furthermore (you guessed it), a regular visit to the dentist and hygienist will help address plaque or tartar, plaque's hardened form.
What can I do about my sensitive teeth?
Sensitive teeth are due to movement of fluids through tiny water filled channels in the dentin. Heat, cold, pressure or sweets can all cause this water to move slightly within the tooth and we experience it as sensitivity or pain.
See your dentist to ensure that this pain is not related to a cavity (tooth decay) or leaky dental restoration (e.g. old filling) that needs to be replaced. Often tooth sensitivity is found to be caused by worn areas of the tooth poorly insulating the dentin.
In mild cases a desensitizing toothpaste can adequately address the problem. Many of our patients find it beneficial to physically insulate the worn tooth with a filling, allowing them to resume their normal lives.