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5 things you should know about your teeth

We use our teeth to smile, chew, talk, and laugh, but you most likely didn't know these facts about your teeth:

#1 Sour can be just as bad as sweet.  Sugar isn’t the only dental villain that undermines healthy teeth. Acidic, low-pH foods -- sour candy, soft drinks, fruit juices -- soften teeth. The result: enamel erosion and diminished tooth size. “Citric acid is the worst acid for your teeth,” says Martha Keels, DDS, chief of pediatric dentistry at Duke’s Children’s Hospital. “We’re seeing acid erosion every day.”

Dentists’ worst nightmare: ultra-sour, ultra-sticky, ultra-sugary kids’ candies such as Warheads and Toxic Waste. Even sour gummy vitamins can be culprits.

Adults aren’t off the hook: Low pH fare includes sour mango Altoids and even sugar-free soft drinks.

If you’re going to consume highly acidic foods, do it during mealtime, Keels says. You’ll minimize the effects by consuming them along with other foods. Better yet, chew xylitol-containing gum, such as Ice Breakers Ice Cubes, Trident, or Orbit, Keels says. Xylitol fakes out bacteria and may even help prevent cavities. Gums containing Recaldent, such as Trident, will help teeth remineralize and resist tooth decay. Finally, brushing periodically with baking soda has been shown to neutralize acids in the mouth, which reduces the amount of acid-loving bacteria that cause cavities.

#2 Enamel is the hardest substance in the body, but it can break easily.  Ice, popcorn, and tongue and lip piercings can chip teeth. And unlike skin, teeth can’t re-grow. 

A 2007 review study published in the American Journal of Dentistry showed that 14% to 41% of people with oral piercings suffered from tooth fractures and wear. They noted that piercing in the mouth may cause “significant oral deformities” and “may lead to tooth loss.”

#3 You can be missing teeth at any age.  Although many people get a tooth, or all 32, pulled, some folks are born missing choppers. The most common missing ones are the wisdom teeth. The second most common is the lateral incisor, which is located next to the big front tooth. People can inherit missing teeth.  Still, the most frequent causes of tooth loss are gum disease and cavities.  

Studies show that 22.8% of Americans 65-74 and 29.4% of Americans 75 and older wear dentures.

#4 Too much fluoride can be bad for your teeth.  We know that fluoride is important for healthy teeth. Typically fluorisis starts out causing white spots, but they can become brown. Unfortunately, fluorisis stains are “intrinsic,” which means the dentist cannot simply polish off a surface stain. Please note, fluorosis is rare and requires ingesting excessive amounts of fluoride at an early age. Prescribed amounts of toothpaste and topical fluoride rinses (act) won't cause any problems.

Excessive fluoride causes teeth to become porous. The problem is not the water supply: Since 1950, the American Dental Association has recommended fluoridation of community water supplies because it makes teeth harder and more resistant to decay. The problem occurs when children ingest extra fluoride, typically by swallowing too much toothpaste. 

#5 Braces can cause cavities.  Brush well if you want your straightened teeth to be healthy teeth. Otherwise, food, bacteria, and acid can get stuck around braces.

The tongue is a natural toothbrush.  When people get braces, they tend to stop rubbing their tongue against their teeth because it’s not comfortable, resulting in buildup.


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