The key to having a good healthy set of teeth is to maintain a clean mouth. The cleaner your mouth is the fewer problems you are likely to have.
Why do I need to clean my teeth?
You need to clean your teeth to remove food debris and to stop/ slow down the formation of dental plaque.
Plaque, which is a mixture of bacteria, minerals and some food leftovers, quickly forms on all of your teeth. After 24 hours, some plaque hardens into calculus, otherwise known as tartar (once this has formed it cannot be removed by tooth brushing, and the dentist will need to clean your teeth).
If plaque or calculus is left on the teeth and gums it will slowly start to cause problems.
The mineral content of the teeth will slowly get dissolved away due to the bacteria in the plaque releasing acids (as a waste product of the breakdown of food molecules). If left long enough a hole will begin to form.
The plaque will also cause the gums to become irritated and swollen, this is called gingivitis. If it is still not removed the plaque will usually slowly start to grow down the tooth root surface. The body, in an attempt to destroy the plaque, also removes the bone from around the root of the tooth. This is called periodontitis. If left untreated for a very long time the tooth will start to become mobile due to the lack of bone support.
How do I keep my mouth clean?
There are some basic things you should do
Brush your teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes each time.
Floss your teeth once a day.
Eat sensibly, avoid constantly snacking on food (especially sugary) during the course of the day and chew sugar-free chewing gum
Get your teeth cleaned regularly by a dentist.
How are my teeth cleaned?
If tartar or calculus has formed the dentist will usually use an ultrasonic cleaner (this fractures the calculus, thereby allowing its removal). Afterwards the teeth will be polished with a prophy cup—a small motorised rubber cup—along with an abrasive polishing compound.
Does it hurt?
It can be uncomfortable. The majority of people who we see are able to tolerate a full mouth clean with the ultrasonic cleaners. The teeth are sensitive when cleaned as the root surfaces are exposed when the calculus/ tartar is removed.
In situations when there has been a lot of bone loss and there are large areas of exposed root surfaces to clean the dentist may suggest the use of anaesthetic so that an effective clean may be performed. This may have to be done over several appointments.
Often the teeth will feel sensitive for a few days after the clean, and you may feel gaps especially in the lower front teeth where plaque and calculus deposits used to be, this is normal.
When should I be referred to a specialist?
In cases where the bone loss is severe or treatment does not appear to be progressing the dentist may recommend you to see a specialist.