Good oral hygiene has many benefits, whether you’re in braces or not. Removal of plaque is very important to help prevent tooth decay. Braces provide more surface area for plaque to cling to and hide behind, so it is important to be aware of techniques to clean around these additional surfaces. Plaque that remains around braces (or anywhere on the tooth) for too long can cause white spot lesions, which is the initial stage of tooth decay. These spots are the result of demineralization of the tooth surface and are a permanent stain the tooth surface. White spot lesions can then progress to dental caries, or cavities. “Fillings” are required to restore cavitated or demineralized areas that have progressed to the point that tooth structure needs to be replaced.
Plaque that is not removed can also cause gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gum tissue. Signs of gingivitis include swelling, redness, and bleeding gums. Gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease with progressive bone and gum tissue loss. It is important for people to understand that poor oral hygiene is a major cause of bad breathe (halitosis). Most often, a person’s senses becomes accustom to their own bad breath and they are unaware that it even exists. However, people in their vicinity are usually well aware of this condition. When this is explained to teens, it can often be news to improve their oral hygiene.
The good news is that tooth decay, demineralization, gingivitis, and halitosis are easily preventable. In the next blog entry I will review the best tips and techniques to keep these conditions away from your mouth!