The teeth are small compared to many other parts of the body, however, they are so complex and important! The health of your teeth can literally affect how healthy you are as an individual. There are many basics when it comes to your pearly whites. Your teeth make up an integral part of our health. Let us teach you some facts you may not have known about just how important your teeth are to your health!
How often should you visit the dentist? The general recommendation is to visit your dentist every 6 months for routine cleaning and comprehensive exam. Those at a higher risk for oral problems will need to see their dentist at least every 3 months. Those at risk for oral problems include:
Did you know that infants should see the dentist as soon as the first tooth erupts in the mouth? The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children see the dentist at this time or no later than the first birthday. Before that time, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water to keep the gums healthy. After a tooth has erupted, use a small amount of fluoride toothpaste and brush twice a day. Even erupting baby teeth can decay!
Once all the teeth have erupted, a child will generally have 20 total in the mouth—10 on top and 10 on bottom. These are called the baby teeth and will eventually fall out to make way for an adult smile. A healthy adult mouth has 32 teeth total if you count the 4 wisdom teeth. With removal of those 4, that brings that number down to 28.
Tooth decay is also known as dental caries or cavities. Tooth decay gets its start from plaque–a sticky acidic substance that forms when bacteria in the mouth mixes with sugar from the foods you eat. That acidic plaque works to erode the hard tooth enamel. When plaque stays on the enamel for too long, it can seep into the soft, pulpy center of the tooth and cause decay. This is where cavities get their start. Avoid tooth decay with proper oral hygiene practices!
When the teeth are not taken care of, the gums take a hit as well. Over time, plaque will irritate the gums, causing the first stage of gum disease, which is gingivitis. At this stage, the gums will be red, irritated and bleed more easily. With advanced stages of gum disease (known as periodontal disease), the gums recede and your pearly whites can literally fall out. An estimated 64.7 million American adults have some form of gum disease. That’s about half of all American adults! How to avoid this? Practicing proper oral hygiene habits will safeguard your teeth!
Not only can you have problems with your smile, but also with how your jaw lines up. Some of these problems include overbite, underbite, crossbite and openbite:
All of the above issues can be corrected with surgical orthodontics or early orthodontic care.
Traditional metal braces are a popular choice when it comes to braces because of their affordability and durability. Ceramic braces (a.k.a. aesthetic braces) are very similar to metal braces but are made out of ceramic material that is white and blends in with your tooth enamel, making them less noticeable. For a step beyond that, Incognito lingual braces are metal braces fit behind the teeth instead of in front. Want more discreetness? Try Invisalign transparent aligners! This braces option is available to all our patients who want to straighten their smiles effectively but in secret.
Good oral hygiene is a bit harder with braces, but so much more important than without braces because food can get trapped in the braces. Take extra time between each meal (or at least several times a day) to thoroughly brush and floss. Use flossers to get around your wires and brackets. Avoid hard, sticky, chewy or crunchy foods (such as chips) that could break brackets and wires. Most of all clean your braces as often as possible to avoid enamel erosion, stains and more!
You’ve done all that work to align your smile, so why not keep it that way? Invest in a retainer after your orthodontic care is complete so your new smile stays intact. The first month is the time when the teeth want to move the most, so immediately using a retainer will ensure your smile sets and continues being straight. Wear your retainer throughout your life to maintain straightness.
It is vitally important to keep your teeth healthy if you want to keep them. Follow the guidelines to brush and floss at least twice a day, if not after every meal. This will reduce your risk for gum disease and tooth decay and will make orthodontic care that much easier to perform. Many oral problems can be avoided by taking the few minutes each day to baby your smile. As always, Dr. Hardy at Hardy Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics can help you keep your smile healthy and strong for years to come. To learn more about your teeth, call our office at (720) 887-6003!