Unless otherwise stated, the information concerning the following topics is obtained from the Canadian Dental Association.


 Natural Teeth


 Mouth Tissues

 Artificial Teeth

 Looking After Your False Teeth

 Caring for Implants

 How to Brush and Floss

 Adult Dental Problems: Gum Disease and Cavities 








 Natural Teeth


You may find yourself looking after the health of someone else. This person may be family, or a close friend. There is a lot you can do to help when this person needs mouth care. It may feel a bit strange at first, so go slowly. If the person does not want your help, respect their wishes. Ask your dentist for advice in this case.

  • Stand behind the person to brush and floss their teeth.

  • Let the person sit in front of the sink. That way, you can make the same motions you use when you brush and floss your own teeth.

  • Make sure you use a soft toothbrush. Or you may find an electric toothbrush better when you brush someone else's teeth. Ask the person to tell you if you are brushing too hard.

  • Have the person rinse with warm water when you are done.





Here are a few tips:

  • Let the person tell or show you how to take the false teeth or "partial" out. (With false teeth, put the upper set back first, and then the lower set.)

  • Both kinds of false teeth must be cleaned daily.

  • Look for cracks in the denture. If you find any, take it to a dentist for repair.

  • Fill the sink with water.

  • Scrub the false teeth or partial denture with a denture brush and soap.

  • Rinse with water when you finish cleaning.

  • Soak false teeth overnight. They can be soaked in a special cleaner for false teeth (denture cleanser, in warm water or in a mix of equal amounts of warm water and vinegar). If the denture has metal clasps, use warm water only for soaking.



 Mouth Tissues


Here are a few tips:

  • Ask if it is okay to look inside the person's mouth.

  • Check the mouth closely. Look for swelling, red or white patches, parts of the gums that have changed colour and sores that do not heal in a few days. If you see any of these things, call the person's dentist.

  • Clean and massage the inside of the person's mouth with a damp cloth or a soft toothbrush.




 Artificial Teeth


You do not have to lose your teeth as you get older. If you do lose a tooth, you can replace it with a false (or artificial) one. If you don't replace it, your other teeth may get out of line.


There are 4 main types of false teeth.

  • A fixed bridge (or fixed partial denture). One or more false teeth are held between healthy teeth on both sides. You cannot take this kind of bridge out by yourself.

  • A partial denture (or removable partial denture). One or more false teeth are held in place by clasps that fit onto nearby healthy teeth. You can take the false teeth out yourself, for cleaning and at night.

  • False teeth (complete dentures). If you lose your teeth, false teeth can replace all your natural teeth.

  • Dental implants. These are used to support false teeth or a fixed bridge. You must have healthy gums and bone (under your teeth) to support the implant. Here's how it's done: Your dentist (or oral surgeon) will put a small metal post into your jawbone. Over time, the post will bond with the bone around it. The post (or implant) will act like an anchor to hold one or more false teeth in place.



 Looking After Your False Teeth


You need to care for false teeth and partial dentures as carefully as you would look after natural teeth. Here's how to care for them:

  • Clean them every day. Plaque and tartar can build up on false teeth, just like they do on natural teeth.

  • Take them out every night. Brush your teeth and gums carefully, using a soft toothbrush. Be sure to clean and massage your gums. If your toothbrush hurts you, run it under warm water to make it softer or try using a finger wrapped in a clean, damp cloth.

  • Soak them overnight. They can be soaked in a special cleaner for false teeth (denture cleanser), in warm water or in a mix of warm water and vinegar (half and half). If your denture has metal clasps, use warm water only for soaking. Soaking will loosen plaque and tartar. They will then come off more easily when you brush.



 Caring for Implants


Because the implant sticks to bone, it can be treated more like a natural tooth. But it is not as strong as a natural tooth. You must brush and floss the implant very carefully. Be gentle, but make sure you brush all sides of the implant. At least once a day, floss very carefully. You will need to be gentle with the floss where the implant meets the gum.


If you have false teeth, see your dentist regularly. Your mouth is always changing. This means your false teeth will need to be adjusted from time to time to make sure you have a good fit.


If you have a bridge or implants, check-ups will help you make sure that your natural teeth get good care. If you have problems with your false teeth, your dentist may suggest you see a special dentist who knows more about false teeth. This kind of dentist is called a prosthodontist.




 How to Brush and Floss


Along with a regular check-up, brushing and flossing are the most important things you can do for your dental health.


Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Regular and thorough brushing removes the plaque that causes gum disease and decay. Brushing your teeth isn't complicated, but there is a right way to do it.


Flossing removes plaque and bacteria from places your toothbrush can't reach. In fact, if you're not flossing, you're missing more than 1/3 of your tooth surface. Floss at least once a day. It may be easier to get into the habit if you floss while doing something else - watching TV or listening to music, for example.


How to Brush

  • Use a soft brush with rounded bristles. Choose a size and shape that allow you to reach all the way to your back teeth. Replace your toothbrush every three months.

  • Brush at a 45 angle to your teeth. Put the bristles at the place where your gums and teeth meet. Use gentle circles. Don't scrub. Years of brushing too hard can make your gums recede.

  • Clean every surface of every tooth - the chewing surface, the cheek side, and the tongue side.

  • Slow Down. A thorough brushing should take two to three minutes. Try timing yourself. Brush your tongue.

How to Floss

  • Take a length of floss about as long as your arm. Wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about two inches between your hands. Use your index fingers to guide the floss between your teeth.

  • Slide the floss between your teeth and wrap it into a "C" shape around the base of the tooth and gently under the gumline.

  • Wipe the tooth from base to tip two or three times.

  • Be sure to floss both sides of every tooth. Don't forget the backs of your last molars.

  • Move to a new part of the floss as you move from tooth to tooth.

  • Floss first, then brush. This will give you a better cleaning.

Problems with Brushing and Flossing?

If you find holding your toothbrush difficult because you have arthritis or some other health condition, try enlarging the handle with a sponge, several layers of aluminum foil, or a bicycle handle grip. If flossing feels awkward or if your fingers always seem to get tangled, try using a plastic floss holder - your dentist or hygienist can recommend one. Or try dental tape instead. It's wider and easier to grasp than floss.




 Adult Dental Problems: Gum Disease and Cavities


Gum disease 

Gum disease is one of the main dental problems adults face. Here are some things you should know about gum disease:

  • It is often painless.

  • It is more common in middle age than in old age.

  • Most of the time, it happens slowly.

If gum disease goes too far, you may lose teeth. The good news is that if it is caught early, gum disease can be turned around.


Here's why gum disease happens:

  • Plaque builds up on your teeth every day. Plaque is clear and sticky and contains germs (or bacteria. It forms where your gums and your teeth meet.

  • You can get rid of plaque by brushing and flossing every day. If you don't remove plaque every day, it hardens into tartar (also called calculus).

  • Tartar cannot be removed by brushing or flossing. It is a breeding place for germs.

  • Too much tartar on your teeth can form tiny pockets of infection. You can't see this infection. But over time, it can destroy the healthy gums and bone that hold your teeth in place.

  • If the infection is not treated, your tooth may get loose. You might even be in danger of having the tooth fall out.

People who have false teeth or partial dentures can also get gum disease around any natural teeth that are left. If you have gum disease:

  • Your false teeth will not fit well over gums that are sore, swollen or bleeding.

  • Your partial dentures (or removable dentures) will not be held firmly in place if your natural teeth and gums are not strong.


There are two main reasons why adults get cavities:

  • The fillings in your teeth are not as smooth as the surface of your natural teeth. Tiny bits of food and germs (bacteria) can get stuck at the edge of a filling. This can cause a cavity. Also, when a filling breaks, the part of the tooth that is no longer covered is more likely to get a cavity.

  • Years of brushing your teeth too hard can make your gums recede, or pull away from your teeth. Getting older can also make gums recede. When your gums pull away from your teeth, the roots of the teeth are out in the open. Roots do not have a hard, outer layer (enamel) to protect them, so they are more likely to get cavities.