Dental hygiene basics

A reminder of the problems we face if we do not maintain oral hygiene...

Our mouth and teeth are vulnerable to many diseases, bleeding gums, bad breath and loose teeth being a few of them. Research says that almost nine out of 10 Indians suffer from various types of dental diseases. This can be prevented if we follow good cleaning and hygiene techniques of oral care like regular brushing and flossing of teeth. Failing which, we can develop several dental problems.

Tooth decay

Tooth decay occurs when the usually hard tissues [enamel] covering our teeth breakdown and form a hole or cavity. A cavity forms when the decayed tooth breaks through the surface of the enamel to the underlying layers of the tooth. In severe cases, this cavity can get so deep, it actually affects the blood vessels and nerves located nearby.

When this happens, you experience unbearable pain and swelling in the jaw area. Any cavity formed must be treated by a trained dentist at the earliest, lest it destroys the entire tooth.

Gum disease

This occurs when the tissues surrounding the teeth get inflamed resulting in very weak teeth or even tooth loss. This condition is caused by a bacterial infection and if left untreated, adversely damages the connective tissues and bone in your teeth.


In gingivitis, the gum tissue [gingiva] of your mouth becomes severely inflamed. If gingivitis remains untreated, it can often lead to periodontal disease, and several other problems. The main symptoms include bleeding—either spontaneously or on provocation [like in brushing]—itchy gums, bad breath [halitosis], sores in the mouth and gum recession.


Plaque is the sticky thin film composed of bacteria that collects on the surface of your teeth. And no matter how good your diet and lifestyle, it accumulates on the teeth.

Plaque forms as a result of regular intake of starchy and sugary foods.In fact, the amount of plaque formed is directly proportional to the amount of such foods eaten. Removing plaque is important as it leads to several dental problems including tooth decay, gum disease [gingivitis] and periodontitis [a severe form of gum disease] and eventual loss of teeth.

If plaque is not removed, it hardens to become tartar. Even if we get it removed, it forms again in no time. The only solution is to take proper care.


Sometimes called calculus, tartar is plaque hardened into a yellow or brown deposit of minerals. The existing plaque further absorbs the calcium, phosphorus and other minerals from saliva forming tartar.

Due to its rough surface and crusty edge, teeth affected by tartar become ideal breeding ground for further plaque.

Now that you know how critical it is to take proper care of your precious pearls, make the most of it so that you can keep them healthy and real for as long as you live.

For a shiny set

You don’t need to stand in front of the mirror all day to keep your teeth healthy and shining. Let me give you a few pointers.

  • Use toothpaste that has fluoride in it. Brush your teeth twice a day with a medium soft brush for about two minutes [neither too gently nor too harshly].
  • Replace your brush as soon as the bristles get out of shape or at least every three months—whichever is earlier.
  • Floss your teeth twice a day.
  • Use a refreshing mouthwash that aims to kill bacteria and germs in your mouth. This will keep bad breath and dental problems at bay. However, don’t use it as a substitute to brushing and flossing.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that includes all the main food groups such as fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and fish. The diet should contain more food groups that are fibrous in nature and less foods that are sticky in nature.
  • Avoid the intake of tobacco and alcohol; they stain your teeth.
  • Visit the dentist at least twice a year. Early diagnosis not only saves a lot of money but also prevents a small hitch from developing into a big complication.

This was first published in the June 2010 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

Ashok Dhoble
Dr Ashok Dhoble is a renowned orthodontist who has also served as the Hon Secretary General of Indian Dental Association[IDA]. He has had the distinction of being the advisor to the Government of Maharashtra, Department of Public Health and Medical Education.


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