What is ‘plaque’ and how does it affect my teeth?
Plaque is a colorless, sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. If left undisturbed, it hardens to form tartar. The bacteria in the plaque produce byproducts that can not only irritate the gums and make them bleed, but it can also lead to periodontal disease. A daily regimen of proper brushing, flossing and rinsing (plus, regular dental visits), will help you keep your teeth healthy.
My gums bleed when I brush or floss. Is this normal?
Healthy tissue doesn’t bleed. This is most likely a sign of early gingivitis. If you experience bleeding gums, see your dental health professional to review proper brushing and flossing techniques. Schedule a soft tissue evaluation with your dentist that will include x-rays and prophylaxis cleaning. Gum bleeding must be taken seriously because if left untreated, it will lead to periodontal disease.
How often should I have my teeth cleaned?
People accumulate plaque at different rates. Although most insurance plan coverage is for a twice a year schedule, it’s sensible to get your teeth professionally cleaned as often as your dental health professional advises you, even if it’s every 3 months.
How many times should I floss my teeth?
At least once a day. There’s an old adage among dentists: “Floss only the teeth you want to keep”. If you don’t want to lose your teeth, floss every day. Otherwise, you’ll be 75% more susceptible to periodontal disease that has been documented to have serious health consequences, e.g. a higher likelihood of heart disease, diabetes, pneumonia and infections. About 45% of American adults have some form of gingivitis, and most adults over 60 have already lost their teeth. Don’t be one of them. Floss at least once a day.
How Bad Breath Occurs?
Bad breath occurs when sulfur compounds are produced in the body and released into the air. The most common source of this sulfur is anaerobic (without oxygen) bacteria that live in the grooves or fibers at the back of the tongue. These bacteria produce the sulfur that gives off an unpleasant smell. This frequently occurs when the mouth is dry, creating an ideal environment for anaerobic bacteria to thrive. Sulfur compounds are also produced when certain types of food are consumed. The compounds make their way into the bloodstream and then to the lungs, where they are excreted into the air we exhale.
Causes of Bad Breath
Bad breath is caused by many factors. Normally, saliva helps wash away the natural buildup of bacteria in the mouth and on the tongue. Yet, when saliva sits on the back of the tongue and is digested by bacteria, it shows up as a white film on the tongue. This is a major source of bad breath. Bad breath is also caused by postnasal drip, a condition where the back of the tongue and throat accumulate high amounts of protein, which bacteria thrive on. Foods that are high in protein or acidity, such as fish, milk, cheese or coffee, also cause bad breath. Dieting or fasting, both of which involve a low intake of calories, causes bad breath by reducing the saliva in the mouth. Contrary to popular belief, stomach problems do not cause bad breath.
More Serious Causes
More persistent problems with unpleasant breath can indicate diseases such as diabetes, liver dysfunction, pulmonary disease, and respiratory disease. Periodontal pockets, the spaces that form between the teeth and gums, are another source of bad breath. These pockets, which occur in the latter stage of periodontal disease, create spaces for bacteria to grow, and give off a chronic unpleasant odor. Dental work may be required in order to remove these pockets of bacteria. Periodontal disease is detected by the presence of bleeding gums, loose teeth, receding gums, or pain when chewing.
For more information on this condition, please refer to the Periodontal Disease section of our Patient Education Library.
Proper oral hygiene eliminates many cases of bad breath. Daily brushing and flossing removes the plaque and bacteria that often cause bad breath. While brushing, take special care to thoroughly brush the back of the tongue where bacteria normally collect. Mints and mouthwashes can hide bad breath, but do not eliminate this condition. Avoid foods that have powerful odors and drink lots of water to insure that the mouth is cleansed and full of oxygen (an environment in which bacteria do not thrive). For information on current treatments, contact a dentist in your area regarding current products on the market that can eliminate bad breath