Plaque is probably the biggest cause of tooth decay and eventual loss. What is it, how do we acquire it, and how do we control it?
Plaque is a sticky, practically colorless film that builds continuously on our teeth. The main inhabitants of plaque are bacteria. One milligram of plaque can contain a half-billion bacteria. Bacteria ferment sugars in the mouth (a reason not to eat sweets) changing them to acids which then eat away at tooth enamel.
As plaque creeps below the gum line, it mineralizes and becomes razor-sharp deposits of tartar, which is the catalyst of periodontal (or gum) disease by far. It's the major cause of tooth loss in adults.
Plaque must be removed daily by "proper" brushing and the use of dental floss. Have your dentist or hygienist show you how to brush properly.
The best way, if not the only way, to remove tartar and long established plaque is to have a professional cleaning. But remember, plaque will start to reform the very next day. The only one who can remove plaque regularly is you.
Professional Cleaning - How Often?
How often should you have a professional cleaning? This depends on your own personal thoroughness with daily brushing, the foods you eat, medications you may take, and of course, smoking. Thorough cleaning is much more than simply cosmetic, although that is very important too.
If you think you are the exceptional person who doesn't need a periodic professional cleaning, buy some disclosing tablets at your pharmacy. A red dye is released when they are chewed which attaches itself to stain and plaque. Look in the mirror. The red stains show the areas that need scaling to prevent gum disease and cavities.
We are all subject to the formation of tartar, although the amount that precipitates out of saliva varies with each individual. If you accumulate little, then your teeth must be scaled infrequently. Usually twice a year is sufficient. However, if you accumulate a lot, it must be more frequent or the irritation will cause pocket formation, bone loss, and eventually possible loss of your teeth.
Periodontal Disease - Early Diagnosis
You have just completed your regular dental checkup. You breathe a deep sigh of relief. "No cavities, but your gums are in poor shape." You are mistakenly relieved. The sad fact is that more teeth are lost because of periodontal disease (gum disease) than any other cause, including cavities.
Fortunately, gum disease can be treated successfully if diagnosed early. Unfortunately, you have no way of knowing of its onset other than by dental examination because there is normally no pain or other symptoms in its early stages.
Once this silent disorder advances though, the gums and even the jawbone may become inflamed and eventually break down. This extreme can be avoided if the dentist regularly examines your mouth both visually, and with x-rays. He can determine whether there have been any changes in the mouth tissues, or the bone around your teeth. He will also look for early tooth decay, impaction, tumors in the jaw area and abscesses in tooth roots.
To insure healthy gums and teeth, you must combine regular dental examinations with effective brushing and flossing.
Your Mouth Is A Healthy Indicator
A 14 year old girl developed bleeding gums. When examined it was seen that her gums bled anywhere they were touched, even lightly. When x-rays were taken, they showed that she also had some loss of bone that supports the teeth. Blood tests and a urinalysis indicated that the girl had diabetes.
When she was treated with proper medication the diabetes was controlled, and the gum condition responded nicely to treatment by her dentist. Without first treating the systematic condition, however, the gums would never have responded to treatment.
Since the mouth is so often an indicator of what is happening to the rest of the body, it is important to check out anything in the mouth that is not normal. Your physician and your dentist want to work together to keep you fit and healthy. A medical examination is more than taking your temperature and blood pressure, and a dental checkup is much more than a twice-a-year glance for cavities.
Bleeding Gums Can Be Serious
Bleeding gums are unhealthy gums. The state of the gums reflects the health of the underlying tissues that can't be seen. Bleeding should alert you that more serious problems lie ahead if the condition is left untreated.
Fortunately, gingivitis is a reversible condition. With proper treatment it can be cured and the gums restored to normal health. If you can maintain healthy gums, you can avoid periodontal disease, the major cause of adult tooth loss.
The villain in the case of gingivitis (and periodontal disease) is plaque. It accumulates rapidly and develops under the gums as well as between and on the teeth. Plaque can harden and build up if not removed regularly. This hardened plaque is called tartar, or calculus. At this juncture, only a professional scaling will remove the accumulation under the gum line, which is where these deposits can quickly build and cause tissue damage and probable loss of teeth.
If you observe bleeding under the gums, don't assume that it isn't serious. See your dentist as soon as possible.
How's Your Smile?
Have you ever noticed how a happy, smiling face makes you want to smile too? The person smiling doesn't have to be beautiful or in the full bloom of youth ...just an attractive smile in itself can be appealing.
Some people who would like to smile broadly when the occasion calls for it, are reluctant to do so. Their smile is guarded, most of their teeth are covered up because they don't want them to show. Maybe there are gaps caused by missing teeth, perhaps their teeth are badly discolored or protrude too much. However, no one has to feel inhibited. With today's dental techniques, anyone's smile can be improved.
Primarily, you used to visit a dentist to find out if your teeth were in trouble. If there was any decay, or if you had infected gums, you wanted the problem taken care of so you could save your teeth. But there are other reasons for seeing your dentist, and one of them is to help keep your smile attractive. There's no need to hide your smile today when there are so many ways it can be improved.