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Toothbrushes: Keys to optimal dental health

March 3, 2012
By C. Paul Martin, M.D. , Marshall Independent

Part II

In our last column local dental hygienist Kandice Vandendriessche discussed general dental hygiene, the use of manual toothbrushes, and the operation and varieties of presently available electric toothbrushes. She completes her informative views for us today, including further current information about the electric toothbrushes and comments about gum and periodontal disease. Her "Seven Steps to Healthy Teeth and Gums" summarize the basic steps to maintenance of a healthy dental system and good general health.

Regarding electric toothbrushes, the Phillips Company produces the Sonicare electric toothbrush that has been on the market for some time. It has 3-5 cleaning modes (clean, gentle, and massage), a three-minute timer, and two brush sizes. Sonicare has a special patented elliptical movement in which the bristles go back, forth, and in a circular motion. With the sonic or high frequency cleaning modality, there is greater salivary fluid movement enabling thorough cleaning below the gum line. In its latest advertising literature, Sonicare promises a return of your purchase after 28 days if "you don't have noticeable results and better checkups!"

On a personal basis, I (KV) have tried most of these electric toothbrushes and prefer the Sonicare brand from the Phillips Company. It is quiet, does an excellent job cleaning my teeth, and keeps my teeth whiter. I recommend it to my patients, especially those patients who have problems with gum disease or periodontal issues.

Have you been told you have gum disease? What can you do about this illness? The way to keep gums healthy is simply appropriate brushing and flossing. These two activities break up the plaque that coats the tooth and gum surfaces. Without proper home care (brushing and flossing), bacterial plaque accumulates on your teeth. Over time, this process causes inflammation and damage to gum tissue and the underlying bone. The skill and expertise of a dental hygienist is then required to remove this plaque and calculus, thus reducing the infection and inflammation. This cleaning should be done twice a year accompanied by an examination by your dentist as indicated.

A recent article, "The Changing Face of Periodontal Disease" noted in the February issue of Access, the official magazine of the American Dental Hygienists' Association, states that the past 15 years have provided a clearer understanding of the pathogenesis of periodontal disease and the impact of the inflammatory process and related risk factors. Contemporary research has identified a definite link between systemic diseases like heart disease and stroke and periodontal disease.

As described above, proper brushing techniques require the use of soft-bristled brushes rather than hard bristles which may cause damage to the gum tissue. Flossing daily and consistently is extremely important to keep the areas between your teeth and below the gum line as healthy as possible. If you do develop an active periodontal infection (the separation and bleeding of the gums around the teeth due to an infection), speak to your dentist, hygienist, and physician about the relationship noted between periodontal disease and other systemic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, etc. This direct relationship of dental disease to general body health and well being is increasingly recognized as a major health care consideration in all age groups, especially in early childhood, the pregnant woman, and the geriatric age.

In summary, whether you use a manual toothbrush or the recently developed electrical toothbrushes, your most important task is to brush twice a day to maintain good oral hygiene. People whose teeth are crowded together or who have several fillings will find that an electric toothbrush will reach the troubled spots easier than a manual toothbrush. For advice as to which toothbrush and related therapies are best for your dental status, consult your dental professional team who are knowledgeable and dedicated to preserving your general health, your healthy dental system and your beautiful smile!

Seven Steps to Health Teeth and Gums

1. Brush twice daily with a soft-bristled electric or manual toothbrush

2. Use toothpaste with anti-bacterial and anti-plaque properties

3. Floss daily to clean between the teeth below the gum line

4. Rinse with hot salt water or an antimicrobial mouthwash designated to fight plaque and tartar

5. Obtain regular prophylactic dental cleanings, dental examinations, and medical reviews

6. Pay attention to your dental hygienist's comments and recommendations discussed during your examinations and cleanings

7. Keep your dental and medical records up to date by informing your professionals about your current health issues, concerns, and medications.

Our thanks to Kandice Vandendriessche, R.D.H., for her valuable contribution to these columns.



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