Why do I need to get my teeth cleaned every six months?
Teeth are very important part of our body. In order for them to be healthy and functional we need to take care of them.
A small dental infection can have serious implications because everything in our body is interconnected. Moreover we want our teeth to last as long as possible because dentures can never completely replace teeth in function or esthetics.
A tooth has two parts: the crown and the root. The crown is the part you see and the root is in the bone holding the tooth in place with the help of supporting tissue. The tissues that support the tooth include the gums, the periodontal ligament and the bone surrounding the root. All three play a vital role in the strength and function of the tooth. Poor oral hygiene can compromise the health of all three.
Poor oral hygiene leads to the collection of plaque. It is colorless and collects naturally on teeth. It is formed by colonizing bacteria trying to attach itself to the smooth surface of the tooth. The film is soft enough to be removed by nail. It then starts to harden, and if not removed becomes stone hard and difficult to remove. It is then called calculus. It is plaque that leads to cavities, gingivitis and periodontitis.
The bacteria in the plaque leads to the formation of acid due to the fermentation of sugars which demineralize or dissolve the enamel. It progressively destroys the tooth and leads to a dental cavity.
Take your time when brushing your teeth. Brush them two times a day and floss at least once a day. There are some mouthwashes that will color the plaque. This works especially well with children because they can see the areas they missed. Mouthwashes with fluoride also help prevent cavities by remineralizing the enamel. I usually recommend them to children over the age of 5 because by then they have learned to spit out.
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums and is mainly due to the long term effect of plaque. Bacteria and the toxins they produce cause the gums to become infected, swollen and tender. The gums bleed even with brushing. The gums appear bright red or purple.
Certain medicines, pregnancy, misaligned teeth, rough edges of fillings, ill-fitting appliances and some diseases can increase the risk of getting gingivitis.
When you brush your teeth make sure you brush your gums too. Massage them with the toothbrush in a circular motion. Initially your gums will bleed but eventually they will get healthy and the bleeding will stop. Mouthwashes will also help. Have the dentist clean your teeth every six months. He or she will remove any hard deposits (calculus or tartar) which will not come off by brushing.
Periodontitis is the inflammation of the ligament and the bone that supports the tooth. If gingivitis is not controlled it will lead to periodontitis. This happens when infection from the gums spreads to the ligament and the bone that surrounds the root. Loss of support causes the tooth to become loose. If required treatment is not rendered the tooth eventually falls out or needs to be extracted.
Teeth are like trees held in place by roots. The root is attached to the surrounding bone by ligament. The bacteria will separate the ligament from the tooth and push the gums, ligament and the bone lower and lower, exposing the root. This reduces the area of root connected to the bone. Once the ligament and bone is destroyed the whole tooth becomes loose.
Never let gingivitis progress to periodontitis. See your dentist every six months. Some people can experience greater tartar build up than others; they need to get their teeth cleaned every three months.
Nothing can replace teeth. No bridge or a denture is as good as your own teeth. Take care of them so they last you a life time.
Dr. Humairah Shah is a dentist by profession and works in Torrance, California (USA). She has been working exclusively with children for the past 11 years.