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Teeth: Take A Bite Out Of Cavities

Teeth: Take A Bite Out Of Cavities

This Halloween, it is estimated that a record breaking $2.7 billion will be spent on candy. 71% of people plan to hand out candy, while 31% will take their children trick-or-treating (National Retail Federation). The effects of candy on our teeth can last a lifetime.

People have two sets of teeth:

Primary (baby, milk, deciduous)

·         20 teeth, 10 upper and 10 lower

·         Begin to erupt at about 6 months of age

·         By about 2.5 years of age, all the baby teeth can usually be seen

·         Play an important role in helping a child learn to chew

·         Allow for clear pronunciation and speech habits

·         Serve as placeholders, saving the spot for the permanent teeth that will eventually erupt

Adult (permanent)

·         32 teeth: (Wisdom teeth vary, not everyone gets all 4 wisdom teeth, and some people do not get any)

·         Begin to push out baby teeth at about 6 years of age. Mouth and jaw growth allow for the additional number of teeth

·         The last of the permanent teeth, the wisdom teeth, typically come in between the ages of 17 and 21

Tooth Anatomy:

·         Crown: the part above the gum line. It is covered with shiny, white enamel

·         Root: the part below the gum line

·         Enamel: protects the tooth. It is the hardest substance in the body. If it is damaged, the body has very little ability to repair it. The enamel of baby teeth is thinner than the enamel on permanent teeth, leading to more rapid tooth decay. Under the enamel is dentin


·         Dentin: is similar to bone, but harder. Dentin surrounds the central (pulp) chamber

·         Pulp: contains blood vessels and nerves. If tooth decay reaches the pulp, you usually feel pain

Tooth decay and gum disease are caused by plaque, a sticky combination of bacteria and food. Plaque begins to build up on teeth within 20 minutes after eating. If you do not remove plaque, it turns into a hard deposit called tartar that becomes trapped between the base of the tooth and the gum line. Plaque and tartar irritate and inflame the gums. Bacteria and the toxins they produce cause the gums to become infected, swollen, and tender. The acids in plaque cause tiny holes in your enamel, also called cavities. They can next attack the dentin, and then the pulp.

Protecting Your Teeth


·         A naturally-occurring mineral that helps prevent cavities in children and adults. It makes the outer surface of your teeth (enamel) more resistant to the acid attacks that cause tooth decay. It is found naturally in most all water sources, rivers, lakes, wells, and oceans. For the past 70 years, fluoride has been added to public water supplies to bring fluoride levels up to the amount necessary to help prevent tooth decay. (For those using well water, find out the fluoride concentration of your water by having it tested through your local health department)

·         Before teeth break through the gums, the fluoride taken in from foods, beverages, and dietary supplements makes tooth enamel stronger, making it easier to resist tooth decay

·         After teeth erupt, fluoride helps rebuild weakened tooth enamel and reverses early signs of tooth decay

·         Fluoride you take in from foods and beverages continues to provide a topical benefit because it becomes part of your saliva, constantly bathing the teeth with tiny amounts of fluoride that help rebuild weakened tooth enamel

·         Mouthwash with fluoride can help make your teeth more resistant to decay, but children 6 years or younger should not use it unless it’s been recommended by a dentist. Many children younger than 6 are more likely to swallow it than spit it out because their swallowing reflexes aren’t fully developed

·         Swallowing fluoride toothpaste can cause stomach upset. Although fluoride can lead to more serious health problems if swallowed in excessive amounts, it is unlikely to occur from small, unintentional ingestion. Over-the-counter toothpaste usually contains low concentrations of fluoride, just enough to provide a sufficient amount of fluoride during brushing. When fluoride is in the stomach, it can cause irritation leading to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Giving the child a snack or beverage containing calcium, like milk or yogurt, will help prevent the stomach upset because calcium binds with fluoride. If you are concerned because someone swallowed toothpaste, do not make them vomit. Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. They will calculate the dose of fluoride or other ingredients possibly swallowed and tell you exactly what to do   

Baby Teeth

·         Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth. As soon as teeth appear, decay can occur

·         Brush an infant's teeth by wetting a soft-bristled, age-appropriate toothbrush with water

·         Choosing when to begin fluoride toothpaste is best decided between you and your baby’s medical provider or dentist

·         For children 3 to 6 years, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day. Supervise children’s brushing to ensure that they use of the appropriate amount of toothpaste. Remind them not to swallow it

·         When your child has two teeth that touch, you should begin cleaning between their teeth daily with flossing

·         Brush your teeth alongside your child, encouraging them to imitate you so that they can develop good habits: brushing for at least two minutes, holding the brush at the correct angle, brushing their tongue, and spitting out the toothpaste when they’re done

·         Regular dental visits should begin when the first tooth appears, or no later than their first birthday

Permanent Teeth

·         Floss at least once per day before brushing. Flossing removes plaque from between the teeth and gums

·         Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Brush 2 minutes each time

·         Use fluoride toothpaste

·         Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, or sooner if needed

·         Eat a healthy diet. You are less likely to get gum disease if you eat healthy foods

·         Avoid sweets and sweetened drinks

·         DO NOT smoke

·         Keep dentures, retainers, and other appliances clean. This includes brushing them regularly. You may also need to soak them in a cleansing solution

·         Schedule regular checkups with your dentist. Many dentists recommend having the teeth professionally cleaned every 6 months


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