Posed June 25, 2008 – Before you can have a beautiful smile like Mariah Carey or Holly Pete Robinson r Tavis Smiley, you must first have a healthy smile. A healthy smile is one without dental disease.
The two major dental diseases are tooth decay and gum (periodontal) disease. Tooth decay is the destruction of tooth enamel. Most of us refer to this as a cavity.
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What causes tooth decay?
Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that constantly accumulates on our teeth. This bacteria will feed on the carbohydrates (sugar and starch) that we consume and as a result, produce an acid that can break down tooth enamel.
How can you prevent it?
To reduce decay you have to eliminate the plaque from your teeth. This is done by brushing and flossing. You should brush 2-3 times each day with a soft bristled toothbrush that is in good condition. Make sure your toothpaste contains fluoride and has the ADA seal of approval on it. You should floss at least once a day. Flossing cleans in-between your teeth where your toothbrush cannot reach.
If plaque is allowed to remain on your teeth for a period of time (a few days) it will harden and turns into tartar which can not be removed by a tooth brush. Tartar has to be scraped off, and yes, sometimes chiseled off, by a dentist or hygienist. Therefore, in addition to daily brushing and flossing, you should have your teeth cleaned professionally every 6 months.
Every six months, or twice a year, you should visit your dentist. During your visits, we will clean your teeth and visually examine them for any decay. Routinely, we will take radiographs (x-rays) that will show us any decay in between your teeth. For back teeth that are free of decay, sealants can be placed on the biting surface to prevent plaque and bacteria from invading the pits and grooves found there.
If decay is diagnosed, it is best to treat it as early as possible (with a filling) because untreated decay will continue to spread destroying your tooth/teeth. This destruction will lead to sensitivity, pain, tooth breakage, and tooth lost which will then require more extensive dental treatment such as root canals, crowns, and extractions.
If you haven't seen your dentist in the last six months, make an appointment today!
I brush and floss my teeth each and every night before I go to bed.
For more tips on how to have a healthy smile, check out the American Dental Association's site at www.ADA.org/public/topics/cleaning.asp .
This article appears courtesy of BlackDoctor.org, is the World’s largest and most comprehensive online health resource specifically targeted to African Americans.