Teeth - caring for; Oral hygiene; Dental hygiene
Tooth decay and gum disease are caused by plaque, a sticky combination of bacteria and food. Plaque begins to build up on teeth within a few minutes after eating. If teeth are not cleaned well each day, plaque will lead to tooth decay or gum disease. If you do not remove plaque, it turns into a hard deposit called tartar that becomes trapped at the base of the tooth. Plaque and tartar irritate and inflame the gums. Bacteria and the toxins they produce cause the gums to become:
By taking good care of your teeth and gums, you can help prevent problems such as tooth decay and gum disease (gingivitis or periodontitis). You should also teach your children how to brush and floss from an early age to help them protect their teeth.
Plaque and tartar lead to a number of problems:
HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEETH
Healthy teeth are clean and have no cavities. Healthy gums are pink and firm. To maintain healthy teeth and gums, follow these steps:
Regular teeth cleaning by a dentist removes plaque that may develop, even with careful brushing and flossing. This is very important for getting at areas that are hard to reach on your own. Professional cleaning includes scaling and polishing. This procedure uses instruments to loosen and remove deposits from the teeth. Routine exams may include dental x-rays. Your dentist can catch problems early, so they do not become more serious and expensive to fix.
Ask your dentist:
WHEN TO CALL THE DENTIST
Call your dentist if you have symptoms of a cavity that include:
Get early treatment for gum disease. Call your dentist if you have symptoms of gum disease that include:
American Dental Association website. Adults under 40.
Chow AW. Infections of the oral cavity, neck, and head. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 65.
Stefanac SJ. Developing the treatment plan. In: Stefanac SJ, Nesbit SP, eds. Diagnosis and Treatment Planning in Dentistry. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 4.
Review Date: 2/5/2018
Reviewed By: Ilona Fotek, DMD, MS, Dental Healing Arts, Jupiter, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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