Other FAQs: Baby Teeth FAQ Adult Teeth FAQ
What Causes Tooth Loss?
The most common causes of tooth loss are dental caries, also known as tooth decay, and periodontal disease, which affects the gums and bone structure that supports the teeth. Dental caries is the major cause of tooth loss in children, and periodontal disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults; however, it too can afflict youngsters.
What Causes Periodontal Diseases?
Plaque - a thin, colorless, sticky film containing bacteria, which constantly forms on the teeth causes periodontal disease. These bacteria use carbohydrates—sugars and starches—to produce an acid that attacks the enamel covering the teeth. After repeated acid attacks, the enamel can be broken down and a cavity begins. Continued acid attacks eventually dissolve the enamel and penetrate the softer, inner layer of the tooth, where decay can spread rapidly throughout the tooth’s structure. Acid attacks begin immediately after every meal or snack and last about 20 to 30 minutes.
Can Periodontal Diseases Be Prevented?
Teeth can be protected from acid attacks by removing plaque, reducing the number of times and the amount of sugar and starches eaten, using fluorides, having plastic sealants applied to teeth, and by regular professional cleaning of teeth by a dental hygienist.
How Does Plaque Attack the Gums?
Plaque can also produce harmful byproducts that irritate the gums, causing gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal diseases. If plaque isn’t removed daily, it will build up into a hard deposit called calculus. If plaque continues to form on top of the calculus, it can irritate the gums, and a pocket may develop between the teeth and gums. Plaque build up can eventually destroy the gums and bone that support the teeth.
How Do You Stop Plaque Attacks?
Two key factors in preventing dental caries are fluoride and dental sealants. Fluoride compounds are found naturally in soil, water, and in many foods. Plaque attacks can’t be stopped, but you can help to prevent plaque build-up by following a good oral care program of brushing, flossing, rinsing, and regular visits to your oral health care professional.
How many times a day should I brush my teeth?
The American Dental Association advocates brushing twice each day. Although there is research indicating that brushing once a day is sufficient to disrupt the formation of plaque that feeds the bacteria that cause decay, this may not be enough for some people, depending on factors such as their diets and the efficacy of their brushing technique. ADHA recommends that you discuss this with your dental hygienist who understands your individual oral health needs and will be able to make a recommendation appropriate for you.
Which is better: a manual toothbrush or an electric one?
Comparisons have been made between power-assisted (electric) toothbrushes and manual toothbrushes to look at the ability of each to remove plaque and prevent or reduce calculus (tartar) buildup, thus reducing gingivitis (gum disease). These research studies have shown both powered and manual toothbrushes to be equally effective when used correctly. So probably, in practical terms, which brush you use is not the critical factor, but how you use it.
What kind of toothpaste should I use?
There are a lot of products to choose from, and much of the decision depends on individual preference. A fluoride toothpaste is essential for optimal oral health. Beyond that, your dental hygienist and dentist can alert you to any other features that make one product more suitable than another for you as an individual.
I don't have insurance/can't afford the dental care I need. What resources are available to me?
Contact dental offices in your area to find out if they offer services on a no- or low-cost basis, and ask for ideas if they can't help. Contact nearby dental schools to ask what is needed to become a patient there. Contact the local public health department or dental societies to find out what they can recommend. Ask local charities for suggestions.
If I use fluoride toothpaste and the water in my area is fluoridated, do I still need additional fluoride?
This depends on your oral health status and any additional sources of fluoride that you may be receiving. Talk to your oral health care professionals about this topic for individualized information.
If you have questions about infant, toddler and children’s teeth, click HERE.
If you have questions about senior dental care, click HERE.