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The Facts About Dental Hygiene

Prevention and good oral dental hygiene are essential to reduce dental decay and its consequences. We have two sets of teeth: baby teeth and permanent teeth. Baby teeth start to pop out when we are about six months old and are completed by about three years of age. Baby teeth are important and require proper care. Like adult teeth, they are needed for chewing, proper pronunciation of words and, to some extent, self-esteem.

The baby teeth hold the place for the adult teeth. If the baby teeth are missing or come out too early, the adult teeth may shift, causing crooked teeth.

Also, like adult teeth, baby teeth can get painful cavities. There are 20 primary baby teeth. The adult or permanent teeth begin to come in at about six years through 20 years.

Table of Contents

Types Of Permanent Teeth

There are five types and 32 permanent teeth:

1. Incisors:

Teeth Types

The four front teeth on the upper and lower jaws (8).

2. Canines:

The pointy tooth next in line to the incisors (4).

3. Premolars:

Two on each side of the canines (8)

4. Molars:

Two in the back of the mouth next to the canines (8).

5. Wisdom Teeth (Technically A Molar):

The last tooth in your mouth (4).

Dental Hygiene For Primary Teeth

For infants, formula or breast milk should not be allowed to pool in the mouth of a sleeping baby. This can cause dental decay . Prevent the baby from falling asleep with milk in its mouth, especially with a bottle propped in their mouth. After each feeding, gently wipe the baby’s gums with a clean cloth or gauze. Continue this type of oral hygiene until the child begins to have teeth. Then gently brush the teeth with a small soft toothbrush. Toothpaste should not be used until the child is able to spit it out. When they do start to brush with toothpaste, only a pea size amount is needed.

At about six years of age, children begin to get their first permanent molars. Once this happens, children should definitely be using dental floss to prevent plaque, gum disease and cavities. Children should go to the dentist regularly; the first appointment should be made by the third birthday or once all the primary/baby teeth are visible. Have the dentist reinforce the proper method of flossing with your child.

Adult Oral Dental Hygiene

Adults need to continue or develop habits that should have been formed in childhood. Brush at least twice a day with a soft tooth brush for at least two minutes, brush your tongue, floss your teeth at least once a day–preferably twice a day, schedule a dental visit twice a year for a checkup and cleaning, don’t eat candy or drink soda or sweet drinks frequently. Drink some water after every meal. This will help remove any lingering food particles from your teeth. Use fluorinated toothpaste and ingest the recommended amount of fluoride .

What Is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a negatively charged ion that prevents the breakdown of your enamel by the acid in your mouth that is created when oral bacteria and sugar come together. It also helps to remineralize the enamel if acid has caused any demineralization. Fluoride is added to drinking water in many communities. Fluoride is naturally found in meat, fish, eggs and tea-leaves. There is controversy over fluorinated water. In excess quantities, fluoride may cause brittle bones and joint and muscle stiffness. Discuss the benefits and risks with your dentist and primary care physician.

Cavities — The What, How And Why

A cavity is the result of a demineralization of the enamel to such an extent that the enamel erodes or decays causing a hole. The decay may continue through the dentin into the pulp, ultimately destroying the tooth (see diagram below). The demineralization process occurs when the tooth’s enamel is exposed to an acid with a pH less than 5 .6. Acid is anything with a pH less than 7 .0 . Water has a pH of about 7 .0. Saliva has a pH from 6 .2 to 7 .4. One of the functions of saliva is to help neutralize the acid in your mouth, and raise the pH in your mouth, counteracting the effects of the acid. The table on the following page provides the acidity of some common food and beverages.


Food/ Beverage Average pH Food/ Beverage Average pH
Lemon juice 2.3 Dill pickles 3.45
Cola 2.45 Apples 3.5
Coffee 2.85 Orange juice 3.75
Vinegar 2.9 Beer 4.5
Iced tea 2.95 Tomatoes 4.6
Wine 3.05 Bananas 4.85
Diet cola 3.15 Bread 5.6
Blueberries 3.2 Cheddar cheese 5.95
Lemon-lime soda 3.25 Milk 6.6
Sports drinks 3.35 Tap water 7.35
Grapefruit 3.4 Saliva 6.8

Teeth are exposed to acid by the food we eat; also by the action of some bacteria on fermentable sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) in the mouth that produces an acid. Fermentable sugars are simple sugars that are broken down to the basic sugar unit.

Some foods that are easily broken down in the mouth or are broken down through the refining process include cookies, crackers, candy and chips. After eating or drinking an acidic item it is especially a good idea to drink some water to manually remove or wash the acid from the teeth.

Dental Hygiene: Tooth Diagram And Glossary

1. Enamel:

Tooth Diagram

The hard, white outer part of the tooth is made of calcified minerals that crystallize, making it strong. It cannot renew itself, but fluoride and sali a can remineralize it. Damage can occur by trauma, mechanical wear or chemical destruction.

2. Dentin:

A hard but porous tissue layer underlying the enamel. Dentin is softer than enamel and can be damaged just as enamel can. However, it does reproduce itself.

3. Gingiva (gums):

The soft tissue that surrounds the base of the tooth. Gingiva supports the tooth and covers unerrupted teeth.

4. Alveolar Bone:

A mineralized tissue contained in the jaw in which teeth are embedded. Alveolar Bone surrounds the tooth root and is attached to the cementum.

5. Cementum:

A layer of tough, connective tissue that covers the root of a tooth and, along with the periodontal ligament, binds the roots of the teeth fi mly to the gums and jawbone.

6. Periodontal Ligament:

The flesy tissue between the tooth and tooth socket that, along with the cementum, holds the tooth in the bone socket.

7. Pulp:

The softer, living, inner structure of the tooth. It contains blood vessels and nerves. When the pulp becomes inflamed it causes pain.

Dental Hygiene: Plaque And Tartar

Our mouth contains thousands of species of bacteria; so many that it forms a biofilm in our mouth. This biofilm is made up of living organisms that form colonies, eventually developing into plaque. Plaque is made up of bacteria, proteins and food byproducts.

Plaque is a film on the tooth that can be brushed, rinsed or flossed from the tooth. Once plaque hardens, it is called tarter. The hardening process takes only about a day.

It is much harder to remove tarter. Both the plaque and tartar house the bacteria in your mouth. When the bacteria in this biofilm come in contact with fermentable sugar (simple sugars) in the mouth. An acid will be produced causing the minerals in the enamel to dislodge. Over time, this process weakens the enamel, dentin and cementum, resulting in tooth decay. The easiest area to develop a cavity is where the enamel is the thinnest–at the gum line of the tooth. This area is also where plaque and tarter develop.

Dental Hygiene: Gum And Periodontal Disease

Gum disease, also called gingivitis, is an inflammation of the gum. It is caused by an infection from the bacteria housed in the plaque and tartar by your gum line. The infection makes the gums swollen, red and prone to bleed. As the infection spreads, it attacks the supporting structures that hold the tooth in the socket, such as periodontal ligaments and even the alveolar bone.

Infection of the supporting structures is called periodontal disease. The best prevention of this disease is to brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day, drink water after eating or drinking, and see a dentist twice a year for a dental exam and cleaning. It is vital to your dental health that you begin to develop good oral habits.


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