Your teeth vary in shape and size depending on where they are in 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.
What can go wrong?
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 for the tooth to be removed. It is very important that you keep up a good routine at home to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Gum disease is common and, if left untreated, may lead to bone loss around the teeth. In some cases it may lead to loose teeth and teeth being lost. Gum disease is preventable. It 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.
How do I keep my teeth and gums healthy?
It is easy to get your mouth clean and healthy, and keep it that way. A simple routine can help prevent most dental problems:
- brushing your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste
- cleaning between the teeth with ‘interdental’ brushes or floss at least once a day
- good eating habits – having sugary foods and drinks less often, and
- regular dental check-ups.
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 term. Your dental team 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, toothpaste and interdental cleaning (cleaning between your teeth).
What is plaque?
Plaque is a thin, sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth.
How can plaque cause decay?
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 your teeth. After constant acid attack, the tooth enamel breaks down forming a hole or cavity.
How can plaque cause gum disease?
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 gumline, the plaque underneath releases harmful poisons causing the gums to become irritated and inflamed. The gums start to pull away from the teeth and the gaps become infected. If gum disease is not treated promptly, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed, and healthy teeth can become loose and fall out. Severe gum disease can lead to teeth falling out and needing to be replaced.
How can I prevent gum disease?
It is important to remove plaque and bits of food from around your teeth as this will stop your gums from becoming inflamed and swollen, and becoming infected. If you leave plaque on your teeth it can harden into tartar, which can only be removed by the dental team. It is important to keep up your regular appointments so that your teeth can have a thorough cleaning if they need it.
*Source: Oral health foundation