Caring For My Teeth (Before & After Treatment)
Your teeth vary in shape and size depending on their position within your mouth. These differences allow the teeth to do many different jobs. Teeth help us to chew and digest food. They help us to talk, and to pronounce different sounds clearly. Finally, teeth help to give our face its shape. A healthy smile can be a great asset and because this is so important, it makes sense to give your teeth the best care possible. New research has shown lack of teeth can diminish our cognitive abilities.
Tooth decay can be painful and lead to fillings, crowns or inlays. If tooth decay is not treated, the nerve of the tooth can become infected and die, causing an abscess. This may then need root canal treatment or even extraction. It is very important that you keep up a good routine to keep your teeth and gums healthy at home. Gum disease is the largest cause of tooth loss in adults. Gum disease is a preventable condition and can be treated and kept under control with regular cleaning sessions and check-ups, preventing further problems. If teeth are lost, it may be necessary to fill the gaps with bridges, dentures or implants.
It is easy to get your mouth clean and healthy, and keep it that way. A simple routine of brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and cleaning between the teeth, good eating habits, avoid having sugary foods and sugary drinks, and regular dental check-ups can help prevent most dental problems. Although most people brush regularly, many don’t clean between their teeth and some people don’t have regular dental check-ups. A few small changes in your daily routine can make a big difference in the long run. Your Dentist or Dental Hygienist can remove any build-up on your teeth and treat any gum disease that has already appeared. But daily dental care is up to you, and the main weapons are the toothbrush and interdental cleaning.
Plaque is a thin, sticky bio-film of bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth.
When you eat foods containing sugars and starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids, which attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with teeth. After constant acid attack, the tooth enamel breaks down forming a hole or cavity.
If plaque is not removed by brushing it can harden into something called calculus, another name for it is ‘tartar’. As calculus forms near the gum line, the plaque underneath releases poisons causing the gums to become irritated and inflamed. The gums begin to pull away from the teeth and the gaps become infected. If gum disease is not treated, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed and healthy teeth can become loose and fall out. Gum disease is the biggest cause of tooth loss in adults and can lead to a need for dentures, bridges or implants.
It is important to remove plaque and food debris from around your teeth as this will stop your gums from swelling and becoming infected. If you leave plaque on your teeth it can harden into tartar, which can only be removed by the Dentist or Hygienist. It is important to keep up your regular appointments so that your teeth can have a thorough clean if they need it, especially as gum disease often is symptom free until it is far progressed.
Gum disease (gingivitis) will usually show itself as red, swollen gums that bleed when brushed or flossed. Many people are alarmed when they notice their gums are bleeding and then brush more gently, if at all. It is important that you continue to clean regularly and firmly in order to fight the condition.
Your Dentist or Dental Hygienist will be able to recommend a toothbrush suitable for you. However, adults should choose a small to medium size brush with soft to medium multi-tufted, round-ended nylon bristles or ‘filaments’. The head should be small enough to reach into all parts of the mouth: especially the back of the mouth where it can be difficult to reach. Children need to use smaller brushes but with the same type of filaments.
You can now buy more specialised toothbrushes. For instance, people with sensitive teeth can now use softer bristled brushes. There are also smaller headed toothbrushes for those people with crooked or irregular teeth.
Some people find it difficult to hold a toothbrush, for example because they have a physical disability. There are now toothbrushes which have large handles and angled heads to make them easier to use, also special handles exist to “bulk up” the handle.
An electric brush often has a rotating or vibrating head, which provides a large amount of cleaning action with very little movement needed from the user, although you do need to position the brush correctly.
Worn-out toothbrushes cannot clean your teeth properly and may damage your gums. It is important to change your toothbrush every two to three months or sooner if the filaments become worn. When bristles become splayed, they do not clean properly.
You can clean between your teeth with dental floss, interdental brushes or tape. Dental tape is taller than floss and many people find it easier and more efficient to use. Flossing removes plaque and food particles from between your teeth and under the gum line, areas a toothbrush can’t reach. You should clean between your teeth at least once a day with floss or interdental brushes like “TePes”.
TePe brushes were developed with the support of dental professionals in Sweden and from throughout the world and are probably the most effective and comfortable way of cleaning in between your teeth. The ergonomic brush handle was developed to give a comfortable and firm grip when being used. The brushes are made from high grade filaments and are selected for their cleaning and durability properties. All TePe interdental brush sizes have plastic coated wire allowing for gentle and safe cleaning.
- Most people will require two or more sizes to clean their mouth effectively as each space is slightly different
- Slide the brush at right angles very gently between your teeth
- Use the full length of the interdental brush
- Do not push too hard
- Curve the brush for the hard to reach gaps between your back teeth
How long your crown lasts depends on how well you look after it, how well it has been made & the quality of underlying tooth. The crown itself cannot decay, but decay can start where the edge of the crown joins the tooth. Therefore, to prevent decay affecting the crown, it is important to keep this area just as clean as you would your natural teeth. Brush for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and clean in between your teeth with interdental brushes or floss.
You will be fitted with a temporary crown between the preparation appointment and the fit appointment, and as explained elsewhere this is not as strong. Please avoid sticky or hard foods and also use your floss down towards your gums. Pulling on the floss away from your gums may dislodge the temporary crown. To avoid the temporary crown from dis-colouring, it is advised to avoid eating curries.
If your temporary crown comes out please contact your Dentist as soon as possible to have it re-cemented, both for your own comfort and equally as important to keep the space in your mouth for your final permanent crown.
After a filling it is important to be careful when eating until the numbness has worn completely off. Avoid testing the numbness by biting the numb lip or cheek as you are likely to damage your lip or cheek. This can be serious with young children as they are not used to being numb and we advise parents to watch their children closely for this.
With silver fillings, also known as amalgams, you should avoid chewing on the side with the new filling(s) for the first hour; they do not gain their full compressive strength, even though they are “hard”. With composite, tooth coloured fillings, you may eat on them as soon as the numbness has completely worn off. They are hardened to full strength as they are placed. We strongly recommend you are gentle on the side where any filling has been placed for the first 24 hours.
For a few days after the procedure you may experience some sensitivity to hot or cold foods and chewing, this is normal. If this sensitivity does not go away or gets worse, please call the Practice so that the clinician can check the new filling and take care of any problems. Just as important, if after the anaesthesia wears off, your “bite” does not feel “just right” or it feels that you may be hitting your new filling when you bite, please call the Practice so that the clinician can simply and easily adjust your new filling. A filling that is hitting “high” will not wear itself in and will cause your tooth to be very sensitive and sore.
After a root canal treatment it is important to be careful when eating until the numbness has worn off. The root canalled tooth will have a temporary filling material that can be dislodged if you eat hard gritty foods so we suggest you eat gingerly on the temporary filling. You may experience jaw pain and muscle soreness as root canal treatments can be lengthy procedures which tend to aggravate jaw and muscle pain. A root canal treated tooth can feel tender for one week and feel different for a while after. If you notice any swelling or if any pain gets worse please contact the Practice for advice and help. Sometimes if this happens we may need to see you to help drain any infection or prescribe you antibiotics.
Once the root canal treatment has been completed we will be monitoring the tooth to check it heals fully. This is done with x-rays from time to time. Often, after root canal treatment, crowns are needed particularly on back teeth to protect the remainder of the tooth from breaking. The scientific literature suggests that 60% of molars fracture after root canal treatment if they are not crowned. Root canal treated teeth are weak and can fracture or worse, split. If the tooth fractures or splits the tooth may not be salvageable and may need to be extracted. To avoid this, your clinician will therefore advise a crown be placed soon after your root canal is completed and we feel confident any infection has cleared up.
Following these few simple rules should help your tooth socket to heal comfortably and uneventfully….
- Take painkillers if required, but avoid those containing aspirin.
- Eat and drink sensibly during the first few hours, on the other side of the mouth.
- Apply pressure to the socket, by biting on gauze or a rolled up cotton handkerchief, for 10-15 minutes if the socket “oozes” or bleeding persists.
- Try to keep the area clean during healing particularly if stitches are present.
- Contact the Practice if you are in anyway concerned.
- Rinse out for the first 24 hours.
- Consume alcohol during the first 24 hours.
- Worry if swelling or bruising develops around the area, particularly after a difficult extraction. This tends to improve after the first 2-3 days.