5 Common Dental Questions a Hygienist Hears
By: Mary Turek, Registered Dental Hygienist
If you’ve ever wondered what type of toothpaste to use or why your gums itch, you’re not alone. Many of the patients I see have similar questions about their dental health. These questions are great and I’d like to share some of them with you so you can be better informed about your overall oral health too!
Why Do My Gums Bleed or Itch?
Bleeding or itchy gums may result from inadequate brushing or flossing. When the bacteria on and in between your teeth is not removed with proper daily oral hygiene habits, it can settle under your gums and lead to inflammation.
However, sometimes patients’ mouths are simply more prone to bacteria buildup because they have restorations like fillings, crowns or bridges that attract bacterial plaques due to their nature. Poorly-contoured restorations and crowded or tilted teeth make it harder to clean your teeth, resulting in bacterial build-ups. Patients with chronic inflammation and increased pocketing under their gums offer bacteria a place to hide. This is why it’s so important to get your teeth professionally cleaned twice a year because your dentist and hygienist can remove this bacteria buildup and take preventative measures against infection.
Bleeding gums are also common during pregnancy, as hormonal changes often result in tender gums. Be sure to see your dentist regularly during pregnancy because proper oral health helps ensure a healthy baby. To learn more, read our Dental Care During Pregnancy.
Why Do I Have Calculus and Tartar Buildup? I Brush and Floss Like I’m Supposed to...
Even if you brush and floss daily, there’s still potential for calculus and tartar buildup. Calculus is hardened plaque made from a combination of protein materials in our mouth such as saliva. There is a large salivary gland under the tongue, and if your saliva contains high levels of minerals, it can compound into tartar and calculus faster. This is why some patients have buildup of calculus along the backside of the anterior (front) teeth. So even though you may be brushing and flossing, your saliva may happen to have certain properties that can result in more calculus and tartar than the typical mouth. Talk to your dentist to learn more about your specific case.
What Are My Cosmetic Dentistry Options?
Cosmetic dentistry options come in a wide variety, with teeth whitening being the most popular. In-clinic whitening treatment provides a quicker, more predictable and more intense whitening. At-home teeth whitening treatment, with either custom-made trays or one-size-fits-all trays, provides a less intense option.
However, it’s important to take care of any restorative care necessary before considering any whitening treatments. For example, if a patient has a lot of tooth decay, we would hold off on whitening because the acidity in the whitening agents would likely aggravate the decay and cause sensitivity. Also, decaying teeth are often discolored, and restorations will improve the decayed tooth’s overall appearance.
For those who have misshapen, chipped, or stained teeth, dental veneers are a good option. They are custom-made thin shells that fit over the top of your teeth create the appearance of whiter, straighter teeth.
What Kind of Toothpaste Should I Use?
You should choose a toothpaste that can help you the most for your individual mouth. For example, if you are very prone to tooth decay, I would recommend that you use a toothpaste with sodium fluoride (an anti-cavity ingredient) to help prevent rapid decay. If you are prone to rapid plaque buildup or tartar, I would recommend a tartar control toothpaste. Your dentist or hygienist can help you find the toothpaste with a property that will be most beneficial to you.
Also, if you use a mouthwash, be sure to check the ingredients to see if it has an anti-cavity active ingredient, as mouthwashes without this ingredient are not effective in preventing tooth decay.
Does Whitening Toothpaste Work?
Whitening toothpastes have limited whitening abilities. They typically only remove the most superficial surface stains and can sometimes be made of abrasive materials that are harsh on enamel. Whitening trays or in-office whitening procedures are the fastest, most effective, and safest way to whiten teeth. Make sure to discuss with your dentist which option is best for you before starting any whitening treatment.
Meet Mary Turek, RDH
Mary Turek is a dental hygienist at our Downtown Milwaukee dental clinic. If it’s been a while since your last cleaning and you’re looking for a dentist in downtown Milwaukee, use the request an appointment button above to schedule a cleaning with Mary.