Healthy Teeth are Happy Teeth

Healthy Teeth are Happy Teeth

We live a lot longer these days than our ancestors did thanks to better nutrition and medical care. That means our permanent teeth have to work for one, two, or even three decades longer.

Taking great care of your teeth is a really good idea.

Your teeth should last a lifetime. With good oral hygiene habits and regular checkups – and barring accidents – they can.

Why Teeth Decay

The parts of your teeth above the gum line are covered with and protected by enamel. Enamel is the hardest substance in the body. Given the enormous pressure exerted by chewing, that makes sense.

As long as your enamel is in good shape, the tooth will usually be healthy and strong. Things go wrong when something called plaque develops.

Plaque is a thin, sticky film that’s a mix of saliva and the bacteria that live in the mouth. Plaque forms on the gum line around your teeth and keeps bacteria in contact with your enamel for longer periods of time.

When bacteria eat the sugars in our foods, they produce acid. That acid begins to erode the enamel. That’s what causes cavities.

Plaque is easily removed by regular brushing and flossing. The key word is “regular.” Plaque begins to re-form within 24 hours after your remove it.

Brushing tips

Places in the mouth can be hard to reach. That’s why a small-headed toothbrush is usually best. The small head allows you to maneuver the brush at odd angles and reach all those little nooks and crevices where plaque can lurk.

Soft bristles are also a must. Plaque is sticky, but repeated passes by your brush will remove it. Hard bristles do nothing but wear on your enamel. Using heavy pressure with hard bristles really wears on your enamel. The goal is to keep your enamel as thick and strong as possible. Replace pressure with thorough brushing and you’ll be good.

Be sure to floss between all your teeth, including the “ends” of your teeth in the very back. The goal is to remove as much plaque as possible.

Get Professional Care

Even dedicated brushers and flossers can miss a few spots, which is why regular dental checkups and cleanings are important. Your dentist can spot any deterioration in your enamel and cavities which may have begun to form. Your hygienist has the tools and the viewing angle to remove the tiniest traces of plaque.

With good oral hygiene habits and regular professional care, the odds of you keeping your teeth for life are good.

Without one or both of those, the odds will not be in your favor.

Gum Disease: The Enemy of Your Teeth

The longer plaque is left next to your teeth, the longer the bacterial acids have to work on your enamel. This is not good, but what happens next is worse.

That acid is very irritating to your gums. Instead of being pink, firm, and healthy, they can become puffy, bleed easily, and look dark red or even purple. This is gum disease, and the early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis.

Gingivitis treated by your dental hygienist removing all traces of plaque, and by you keeping your teeth plaque-free. No plaque, no acid, and the gums will begin to heal.

When plaque is left alone long enough, it hardens into something called dental tartar. Tartar is harder than enamel – there’s no way that brushing and flossing will remove it.

With even more bacteria under a hard shell, the acid production really gets going. Even more serious is that plaque and tartar can extend under the gum line. The parts of your teeth down there aren’t covered by hard enamel. That means that acid erosion can happen much faster.

If enough of the dentin layer below the gum line gets eroded, the bacteria invade the pulp of the tooth and you have an infection.

This stage of gum disease is known as periodontitis, and it can cause major problems if left untreated. Not only is it incredibly painful due to infection attacking the nerves, it can even get down into the underlying bone. When that happens, you can lose the tooth or teeth.

Healthy teeth are happy teeth, and yours will keep you healthy for life with the right care. To arrange an appointment for a cleaning and exam, call our West Chester, Pennsylvania dental office at 610-314-7534 for an appointment. We’ll be happy to arrange a day and time that works best for you. Or, send us a message using our online form. A member of our team will get back with you as soon as possible.