ABCD of Oral Hygiene


Oral hygiene is a generic term that we keep hearing on television, social network or from general people around us. While it may sound easy to define, or even easier to practice, it is not always like that when we really get into it!

What is oral hygiene? It is the practice of keeping the oral cavity and teeth clean and tidy to prevent dental problems like dental cavities, gingivitis, periodontitis (commonly called pyorrhea), halitosis (bad breath), etc.

How to maintain oral hygiene? One should take proper oral care to prevent these (mentioned above) diseases. This can be done by proper tooth brushing, flossing, regular mouthwash, and timely visit to a dentist. The last one is most important (and most neglected) as the individual himself doesn’t know what’s going on or what’s wrong in oral cavity until the condition becomes worse or begins to cause pain. So, the thumb rule is “the earlier, the better.”

When to visit the dentist? Visit your dentist every 6 months no matter what! Many silently progressing diseases can be caught by a dentist at the earliest, from a cavity in its budding stage to a lethal oral cancer, if detected earlier, better prognosis can be assured.

Let us talk about some common oral health issues one by one:

Plaque is a yellow sticky film that forms on teeth and gums, and can be seen at gum margins. The bacteria in plaque convert the carbohydrates in food (such as sugar) into acid that dematerializes the teeth, eventually causing cavities. It causes inflammation of the gums making it red, tender and easy to bleed while brushing. Daily brushing and flossing can help remove plaques.

Calculus/tartar is nothing but hardened dental plaque. It is caused by precipitation of minerals from saliva and GCF (gingival crevicular fluid). Once formed, this tarter provides ideal surface for further plaque formation which compromises the health of the gingiva. Calculus should be removed  properly above as well as below the gum line professionally (by a dentist/dental hygienist) to restore normal periodontal health. If neglected, this condition leads to gingivitis, periodontitis, bad breath (halitosis) and tooth loss.

Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gingiva, where gums becomes red, tender and bleed easily while brushing, flossing or even spitting. The three C’s (color, contour and consistency) changes from healthy pink, well shaped, firm to red, swollen, soft, fluctuant and spongy. This is caused by the deposition of plaque and building up of tartar which ultimately compromises the health of the gingival. Once established, this should be treated at the earliest to prevent the condition becoming worse and progressing in to what is called as PERIODONTITIS.

Periodontitis is the inflammation of the periodontium that is made up of gingiva, alveolar bone, cementum (covers the outer layer of the roots of the teeth) and PDL – periodontal ligament fibers (runs between the cementum and the alveolar bone). Commonly called as pyorrhea, it is a set of diseases affecting the periodontium – the tissues that surround and support the teeth.
Periodontitis comes to play a role if gingivitis is left untreated which again if left untreated leads to bone loss around the teeth and eventually loss of teeth.

What is the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis? The basic difference between gingivitis and periodontitis is that in gingivitis there is inflammation of gums with bleeding, where as in periodontitis bleeding gums are there but loosening of teeth and bone loss is also present.

How to treat periodontitis? This should be treated thoroughly by a skilled dentist or a periodontist with complete oral prophylaxis and root planning (bone grafting may be sought and required in certain cases) to prevent it from reoccurring. Good oral hygiene measures should be taken thereafter.

Well, there are a lot of local and systemic factors that determine the fate of oral cavity. We will discuss each of those issues through different post.

Till then, keep smiling and take good care of your health……ORAL HEALTH!