Oral hygiene is one of the best bargains in healthcare. A combination of preventive maintenance at home and regular dental visits for professional cleanings can protect your teeth and your overall health.
But how do you know if you’re doing a good job cleaning your teeth? Of course, getting cavities and gum disease will tell you, but hopefully you see the signs before that happens so you can avoid major health consequences.
Everybody experiences some amount of bad breath related directly to eating particular food like garlic or onions, but if you experience chronic bad breath, it’s a sign that you might need to clean your teeth better and more often.
Many cases of chronic bad breath are related to oral bacteria that are anaerobic–they don’t like oxygen and “breathe” sulfur. Not cleaning your teeth properly lets these bacteria build up, leading to bad breath.
But if you do clean your teeth more regularly and you still suffer from bad breath, it might be a sign that you have an even more serious problem. Sometimes these bacteria will infect a damaged tooth, which we call an abscessed tooth. This can have deadly consequences, but can be treated.
Tooth discoloration is usually related to staining habits. This might include dark-colored foods like chocolate or berries, dark-colored drinks like coffee, tea, or red wine, or the use of tobacco.
You can slow the buildup of these stains by brushing and flossing your teeth more regularly. And regular dental visits can remove them even more effectively.
However, it’s impossible to stop them completely with oral hygiene. If you consume these types of foods, drinks, and substances, you are likely to need teeth whitening to remove the stains. Beware home whitening routines that could be acidic or abrasive, as they can damage your teeth.
Another sign that you need to step up your home hygiene routine is tartar buildup on your teeth. Tartar is a combination of oral bacteria and food residue that’s absorbed the minerals in your saliva, turning into a rock-like deposit on your teeth.
You can identify tartar as the stuff that’s left behind after you brush and floss your teeth. Plaque is soft and comes off easily. Tartar deposits might look like plaque, but no matter how much you brush, they don’t come off.
You can watch for tartar building up around the gums on your teeth. They are an irregular crust on top of your teeth. They can be white, but they often get stained much faster than your natural teeth, so they can be yellow or brown. You might also feel tartar before you see it. If you notice that your floss isn’t sliding as smoothly around teeth as it used to, or if your teeth have a rough or “fuzzy” feeling even after you brush, you might have tartar buildup.
Tonsil stones are an unusual symptom of poor oral hygiene that most people don’t know about. Your tonsils aren’t just strange growths on the sides of your throat, they have a function: to catch excess bacteria and debris before it reaches your stomach and/or lungs. To do this, they have many cracks and crevices that trap bacteria and debris.
When you have a lot of bacteria and food debris in your mouth, it can lead to buildups in your tonsils called tonsil stones. These can make you feel like you have something stuck in your throat. Or they can come loose spontaneously, either falling back into your throat or into your mouth. If you find one in your mouth, it’ll be an off-white irregular blob that is soft, but may also be gritty, and may have a foul taste or smell.
Gum disease is a serious consequence of poor oral hygiene. In the early stages of the disease, called gingivitis, you might notice some minor symptoms in your gums. Gums that are sensitive to eating, brushing, or flossing, should be considered a warning sign.
Fortunately, improving your oral hygiene should be able to reverse the effects of tender gums, allowing them to heal and become less tender.
More serious symptoms of gum disease can include food getting stuck between teeth and gums, bleeding gums, and even receding gums.
Checkups and Hygiene Advice in Fort Atkinson, WI
If you experience these or other signs that your oral hygiene isn’t working to keep your mouth healthy, we can help. We offer preventive dental care for your entire family that can help you restore the overall health of your mouth. Then we can offer guidance on how to improve your home hygiene routine so you stay healthy.