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Frequently asked questions to a Dentist York

What is plaque?

Plaque is a white, soft, sticky substance that is made up of bacteria and food. It forms on your teeth and causes a 'furry feeling'. It often builds up in between teeth and at the gum line and turns into calculus (tartar) if left for long enough.

Why is plaque bad for my teeth?

When you eat, the bacteria in plaque eat as well. The plaque bacteria then produce acids which can dissolve the minerals which make up the tooth and result in a hole (cavity). This process is called decay.

Why is plaque bad for my gums?

The acids produced by plaque not only damage the teeth but also damage the structures that hold the teeth in the jaw.  

What are plaque retention factors?

These are any irregularities around the teeth which plaque can stick too. Calculus is the most common example of a plaque retention factor, other examples include overhanging or rough fillings, crowns or veneers with ledges, some types of dentures and crooked teeth.

If  plaque is white how can I see it?

Plaque isn't easy to see so dentist and hygienists recommend disclosing tablets. Disclosing tablets often called plaque check tablets are made of a vegetable dye called Erythrocine (E127).

Can anyone use disclosing tablets?

Disclosing tablets can be used by anyone over the age of 6, under the supervision of an adult. If allergic to Erythrocine or any of the other ingredients in disclosing tablets they should not be used.

How do I use disclosing tablets?

Chew one tablet thoroughly until no bits are left and spread saliva to all areas of your mouth with your tongue. Spit out residual saliva and gently rinse out mouth with water. DO NOT SWALLOW THE TABLET.

Look in the mirror - areas where plaque and food are present will be stained a bright colour. Clean the mouth step by step. (It is best to disclose teeth at night because the mouth may remain coloured for several hours).

How often should I use disclosing tablets?

Disclosing tablets should be used about once a week. With children it may be quite revealing to use a disclosing tablet after they have (allegedly!) cleaned their teeth to show where they have missed. Offering extra pocket money every time the teeth are found properly cleaned is a good incentive to encourage thorough cleaning.

What is calculus?

Calculus and tartar are the same thing (tartar is the term more commonly used by Americans). Calculus forms when plaque if left on the surface of a tooth for about 72 hours. It results from minerals found in saliva entering plaque, turning it hard (mineralization). Once plaque has mineralised to calculus it won't come off by brushing alone, you will need to visit your dentist or hygienist who will scale (or scrape!) it off.

What is the best way to stop the build up of calculus?

Simply clean the plaque off your teeth before it mineralises to calculus. Clean the teeth using the steps described earlier.

Why does the dentist always find calculus behind my lower incisors?

This is a difficult area to reach with a toothbrush so is often not cleaned as well as other areas in the mouth. This area tends to get bathed in more mineral rich saliva than other areas of the mouth, so any plaque turns to calculus more rapidly. Some people find that an electric toothbrush with an oscillating rotating head helps reduce the build up of calculus in this area, because it is easy to manoeuvre and reach behind the teeth.

Which is better to clean my teeth an electric toothbrush or a manual one?

If your dentist or hygienist feels you are doing a good job at cleaning your teeth with a manual toothbrush there is no reason to change to an electric one. However, if you are constantly being told ‘your teeth could be cleaner ', it is probably worth trying an electric toothbrush as you may well find it more effective at cleaning your teeth.

Which is better a sonic toothbrush or an oscillating rotating head electric toothbrush?

Independent research would suggest the oscillating rotating type toothbrush is more effective at cleaning teeth.

What is the best toothpaste to use?

Always use a toothpaste containing fluoride. Ask your dentist to recommend what toothpaste is best for your needs.

Should I rinse out after brushing my teeth?

It is best not to rinse out or to only rinse with a small amount of water. Young children should be encouraged to spit out excess toothpaste otherwise they may develop fluorosis.

When should I brush my teeth?

Teeth should be brushed last thing at night and at least once more during the day.

Why is it important to brush last thing at night?

Less protective saliva flows at night and fluoride from toothpaste remains around the teeth longer giving added protection.  

What is flossing?

Floss is a thread like material used to clean the point where two teeth touch. Dentists and dental hygienists will often recommend that you floss your teeth as part of your oral care routine.

Ask the dentist or hygienist to show you how to use floss.

When flossing for the first time you may find it difficult, but be patient and persevere with it - you will get used to it in time, and the benefits are well worth it.

Why do my gums bleed when I floss?

You may find your gums bleed a lot when you first start flossing - this is because the gums between the teeth can be very fragile due to the damage from plaque bacteria. As you floss more regularly and remove the bacteria, the gums will thicken up and the bleeding will reduce.

What are inter-dental brushes?

These are special brushes to clean between your teeth. They look like miniature bottle brushes. They come in various sizes according to the spaces between the teeth and are colour coded. Your dentist or hygienist will be able to recommend which one(s) to use.

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