What Do You Want to Know About Dental and Oral Health?
fairy, movie-star smiles, and toothy grins have all helped build a reputation
for teeth. When it comes down to it, the main job of the teeth is to act
similar to the wood chipper, meat mallet, and garbage disposal.
Teeth may look like
fossils, but they're actually dynamic living structures. The bonelike enamel
(crown) that we see on the outside of each tooth hides an interior chamber
filled with a rigid mesh of mineralized connective tissue (dentin). Beneath this layer of
dentin, each tooth's core consists of nerves encased in a pulpy sheath. Canals
in the center of each tooth root allow nerves to pass through. The tooth is
anchored in the jaw by sturdy ligaments and a material called cementum.
The blade-shaped incisors are like a built-in
set of knives. The pointy cuspids help
you slice, gnash, and sever. The bicuspids
(premolars) and molars have
broad, blunt surfaces that crush and grind like a mortar and pestle.
(mastication) is the first step in the digestive process. You would have a hard
time swallowing most foods without chewing first. What may be less obvious is
that chewing not only makes food easy to swallow, it also multiplies the
surface area on which digestive enzymes can work to convert food into energy.
of salivary glands moisten food to help it pass through the tube that connects
the back of the throat to the stomach (the esophagus). These glands also
secrete enzymes that begin to dissolve starches.
Oral Health and General Health are Linked
of dental and oral health has risen in recent years as researchers have
discovered a connection between declining oral health and underlying systemic
conditions. In other words, a healthy mouth can help you maintain a healthy
body. According to the Mayo
Clinic, oral bacteria and inflammation can be associated with diseases
- Alzheimer’s disease
addition, bacteria can spread from the oral cavity to the bloodstream, causing
a life-threatening infection of the heart valves. Your dentist may suggest
administration of preventive antibiotics before performing any dental procedure
that could dislodge bacteria in the mouth.
What Can Go Wrong
The oral cavity is a catch
basin for all sorts of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Some of them belong there
and make up the normal flora of the mouth. In small quantities, they're generally
harmless. However, a diet high in sugar creates conditions in which
acid-producing bacteria can flourish. This acid dissolves tooth enamel and
causes dental cavities.
Bacteria at and just
beneath the gum line thrive in a sticky matrix called plaque. If plaque is
not removed regularly by brushing and flossing, it accumulates, hardens, and
migrates down the length of the tooth. This can inflame the gums and cause a
condition known as gingivitis.
As the inflammation increases,
the gums begin to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets in which pus may
eventually collect. This more advanced stage of gum disease is called periodontitis. If periodontal
disease exposes the root canal of a tooth, laying bare the nerve root, therapy
to save the tooth may be necessary.
may be the site of abscesses or other infections, disorders, or even cancer.
Nearly all adults, for example, have been infected with herpes simplex virus,
type 1 (HSV-1), the virus that causes cold sores in the mouth or on the lips.
This virus may lie dormant, but it remains in the body and can return to cause sores
on the lips and inner mouth.
Keeping Your Teeth and Gums Healthy
Good oral health boils down
to good general health and common sense. Don't use tobacco products. Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a
day, and floss daily. Flossing is the most beneficial activity you can do to
prevent disease in the oral cavity. Have your teeth cleaned by a dental
professional every six months. Follow a high-fiber, low-fat, low-sugar diet
that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. This type of diet is naturally
high in vitamin D, which helps the body absorb and maintain calcium and
phosphorus, minerals found in teeth and bones. Limit sugary snacks and foods
with hidden sugars like:
- barbecue sauce
- sliced fruit or applesauce in cans or jars
- fruit yogurt
- pasta sauce
- sweetened iced tea
- sports drinks
- juice or juice blends
- granola and cereal bars