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Oral hygiene is the practice of keeping the mouth and teeth clean to prevent dental problems and bad breath.

Teeth cleaning

Teeth cleaning is the removal of dental plaque and tartar from teeth to prevent cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease. Severe gum disease causes at least one-third of adult tooth loss.

Since before recorded history, a variety of oral hygiene measures have been used for teeth cleaning. This has been verified by various excavations done all over the world, in which chewsticks, tree twigs, bird feathers, animal bones and porcupine quills were recovered. Many people used different forms of teeth cleaning tools. Indianmarker medicine (Ayurveda) has used the neem tree (a.k.a. daatun) and its products to create teeth cleaning twigs and similar products for millennia. A person chews one end of the neem twig until it somewhat resembles the bristles of a toothbrush, and then uses it to brush the teeth. In the Muslim world, the miswak, or siwak, made from a twig or root with antiseptic properties has been widely used since the Islamic Golden Age. Rubbing baking soda or chalk against the teeth was also common.

Generally, dentists recommend that teeth be cleaned professionally at least twice per year.Professional cleaning includes tooth scaling, tooth polishing, and, if too much tartar has built up, debridement. This is usually followed by a fluoride treatment for children and adults.

Between cleanings by a dental hygienist, good oral hygiene is essential for preventing tartar build-up which causes the problems mentioned above. This is done by carefully and frequently brushing with a toothbrush and the use of dental floss to prevent accumulation of plaque on the teeth.

What is plaque?

Plaque is a sticky film that forms on the teeth and gums. The bacteria in plaque releases acid that attacks tooth enamel. Tooth decay can occur after repeated attacks. You might not even know it, but some of the foods we eat can cause plaque bacteria that produce acids. Thorough daily brushing and flossing can prevent calculus or tartar that forms on the teeth.

Plaque can also cause irritation to the gums, making them red, tender, or bleeding easily. In some cases, the gums pull away from the teeth and causes pockets that fill with pockets of bacteria and puss. If this is not treated, bones around the teeth can be destroyed. Teeth may become loose or have to be removed as with periodontal (gum) disease in mostly adults. Eating a balanced diet and limiting snacks can prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease. Nutritious foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt cheese, or a piece of fruit are considered good snack foods to grab.

Interdental Brushing

Periodontologists nowadays prefer the use of interdental brushes to dental floss. Apart from being more gentle to the gums, it also carries less risk for hard dental tissue damage. There are different sizes of brushes that are recommended according to the size of the interdental space.It is desirable to clean between teeth before brushing to enable easy access for the saliva fluoride mix to remineralise any demineralised tooth often resulting from food left on teeth after every meal or snack.

"How do I brush my teeth?"

  • Place bristles along the gumline at a 45 degree angle.((
  • Brush 2 to 3 teeth in a vibrating circular motion then move on to the next 2 to 3 teeth.
  • Maintain the 45 degree angle to reach your inner teeth. Gently brush using back, forth, and rolling motion.
  • Tilt your toothbrush vertically and move your toothbrush up and down several strokes.
  • Use a gentle back and worth brushing motion to brush the biting surface of your teeth.
  • Brush the tongue to remove odor causing bacteria for fresh breath.


The use of dental floss is an important element of the oral hygiene, since it removes the plaque and the decaying food remaining stuck between the teeth. This food decay and plaque cause irritation to the gums, allowing the gum tissue to bleed more easily. Acid forming foods left on teeth also demineralise tooth eventually causing cavities.Flossing for a proper inter-dental cleaning is recommended at least once per day, preferably before bedtime, to help prevent receding gums, gum disease, and cavities between the teeth.

"How do I floss my teeth?"

A dental hygienist demonstrates dental flossing.

  • Use 18 in of floss, wrapping it around your two middle fingers. Leave an inch or two of floss to work with.
  • Holding the floss tightly, gently move the floss up and down between teeth.
  • Go beneath the gumline by curving the floss around each tooth.
  • Use a clean section of the floss when moving from tooth to tooth.
  • To remove floss, use the same back and forth motion to gently bring the floss away from teeth.

Tongue cleaning

Cleaning the tongue as part of the daily oral hygiene is essential, since it removes the white/yellow bad-breath-generating coating of bacteria, decaying food particles, fungi (such as Candida), and dead cells from the dorsal area of tongue. Tongue cleaning also removes some of the bacteria species which generate tooth decay and gum problems.

Gum care

Massaging gums with toothbrush bristles is generally recommended for good oral health. Flossing is recommended at least once per day, preferably before bed, to help prevent receding gums, gum disease, and cavities between the teeth.

Oral irrigation

Dental professionals usually recommend oral irrigation as a great way to clean teeth and gums.

Oral irrigators can reach 3-4 mm under the gum line, farther than toothbrushes and floss. And, the jet stream is strong enough to remove all plaque and tartar. The procedure does leave a feeling of cleanliness and freshness, and does disrupt more plaque or bacteria as floss since it cleans deeper.

Food and drink

Foods that help muscles and bones also help teeth and gums. Breads and cereals are rich in vitamin B while fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, both of which contribute to healthy gum tissue.(8) Lean meat, fish, and poultry provide magnesium and zinc for teeth. Some people recommend that teeth be brushed after every meal and at bedtime, and flossed at least once per day, preferably at night before sleep. For some people, flossing might be recommended after every meal.

Beneficial foods

Some foods may protect against cavities. Fluoride is a primary protector against dental cavities. Fluoride makes the surface of teeth more resistant to acids during the process of remineralisation. Drinking fluoridated water is recommended by some dental professionals while others say that using toothpaste alone is enough. Milk and cheese are also rich in calcium and phosphate, and may also encourage remineralisation. All foods increase saliva production, and since saliva contains buffer chemicals this helps to stabilize the pH to near 7 (neutral) in the mouth. Foods high in fiber may also help to increase the flow of saliva. Sugar-free chewing gum stimulates saliva production, and helps to clean the surface of the teeth.(8)

According to, these are the top ten beneficial foods for your teeth.
  1. Green Tea-It prevents plaque and helps reduce your chances of cavaties and gum disease because it contains polyphenols, antioxidant plant compounds. Tea may also help reduce bad breath. Tooth enamel can be strengthened because green tea contains fluoride which promotes healthy teeth.
  2. Milk and Yogurt-Both of these are good for teeth because they contain low acidity, which means that wearing of teeth is less. Because they are low in sugar, it means less decay too. Milk is a good source of calcium which is the main component of teeth and bones.
  3. Cheese-Cheese contains calcium and phosphate. It helps balance your mouth pH balance, preserves and rebuilds tooth enamel,produces saliva, and kills bacteria that cause cavities and disease.
  4. Fruits-Vitamin C is contained in fruits such as apples, strawberries, and kiwis. This vitamin is considered the element that holds your cells together. If this vitamin is neglected, your gums can break down, making gums tender and susceptible to gum disease.
  5. Vegetables-Vitamin A that is found in pumpkins, carrrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli is necessary for the formation of tooth enamel. Crunchy vegetables may also help clean your gums.
  6. Onions-Onions contain antibacterial sulfur compounds. Test show that onions kill various types of bacteria, especially when eaten raw.
  7. Celery-Celery protects your teeth by producing salvia which neutralizes bacteria that cause cavities. It also massages the teeth and gums.
  8. Sesame Seeds-These seeds get rid of plaque and helps build tooth enamel. They are also very high in calcium.
  9. Animal Food-Beef, chicken, turkey, and eggs contain phosphorous. Phosphorous and calcium create our bone system.
  10. Water-Water cleans the mouth and produces salvia that deposits essentail minerals into the teeth. It keeps teeth hydrated and washes away particles from the teeth.

Detrimental foods

Sugars are commonly associated with dental cavities. Other carbohydrates, especially cooked starches, e.g. crisps/potato chips, may also damage teeth, although to a lesser degree since starch has to be converted by enzymes in saliva first.

Sucrose (table sugar) is most commonly associated with cavities. The amount of sugar consumed at any one time is less important than how often food and drinks that contain sugar are consumed. The more frequently sugars are consumed, the greater the time during which the tooth is exposed to low pH levels, at which point demineralisation occurs (below 5.5 for most people). It is important therefore to try to encourage infrequent consumption of food and drinks containing sugar so that teeth have a chance to be repaired by remineralisation and fluoride. Limiting sugar-containing foods and drinks to meal times is one way to reduce the incidence of cavities. Sugars from fruit and fruit juices, e.g., glucose, fructose, and maltose seem equally likely to cause cavities.

Acids contained in fruit juice, vinegar and soft drinks lower the pH level of the oral cavity which causes the enamel to demineralize. Drinking drinks such as orange juice or cola throughout the day raises the risk of dental cavities tremendously.

Another factor which affects the risk of developing cavities is the stickiness of foods. Some foods or sweets may stick to the teeth and so reduce the pH in the mouth for an extended time, particularly if they are sugary. It is important that teeth be cleaned at least twice a day, preferably with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, to remove any food sticking to the teeth. Regular brushing and the use of dental floss also removes the dental plaque coating the tooth surface.

Chewing gum assists oral irrigation between and around the teeth, cleaning and removing particles, but for teeth in poor condition it may damage or remove loose fillings as well.


Smoking and chewing tobacco are both strongly linked with multiple dental diseases. Regular vomiting, as seen in bulimia nervosa, also causes significant damage.

Mouthwash or mouth rinse improve oral hygiene. Dental chewing gum claim to improve dental health.

Retainers can be cleaned in mouthwash or denture cleaning fluid. Dental braces may be recommended by a dentist for best oral hygiene and health.Dentures, retainers, and other appliances must be kept extremely clean. This includes regular brushing and may include soaking them in a cleansing solution.

Oral hygiene and systemic diseases

Several recent clinical studies show a direct link between poor oral hygiene (oral bacteria & oral infections) and serious systemic diseases, such as:

  • Cardiovascular Disease (Heart attack and Stroke),

  • Bacterial Pneumonia,

  • Low Birth Weight,

  • Diabetes complications,

  • Osteoporosis.

See also


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