“Take Care of Your Teeth,” Ensign, Feb. 1982, 53
One part of our body known to have tremendous effect on our total health is our teeth. Many major diseases can be linked to our oral health and whether or not we have been able to eat and chew our food properly throughout our life. Furthermore, infections in the mouth caused by unhealthy teeth and gum tissue may directly affect the rest of the body by traveling through the bloodstream and causing secondary infections.
Prevention is the key to good oral health. This includes home care—doing all we can individually to care for our teeth—as well as regular visits to the dentist for a checkup and cleaning (usually every six months). If we wait until we experience discomfort before going to the dentist, the expense is many times greater, often results in major reconstruction work, and may mean the loss of some or all of our natural teeth.
The major cause of dental disease is plaque, an almost invisible film of decomposed food particles and millions of living bacteria which builds up on the teeth every day. If not removed, the bacteria in plaque feed on food left in the mouth (mostly sugars) and produce acids that eat into the enamel, causing cavities. Plaque also affects gum tissue, causing periodontal (gum) disease. As it accumulates on the teeth, it releases more and more irritating substances which cause gum tissue to become sore and swollen, tending to draw away from the plaque and the teeth as well. If the plaque is not removed regularly the gums continue to recede, become detached, and form pockets where food particles settle. This, in turn, leads to destruction of the bone holding the tooth in place and to eventual loss of the tooth.
Home care should include brushing and flossing immediately after eating. Where this is not possible, the mouth should be rinsed thoroughly with drinking water, which will dilute and wash away a good share of the food particles that can cause decay.
Brushing technique is important in maintaining healthy teeth and gum tissue. Improper brushing may cause wearing away of the teeth along the gum line as well as irritated gum tissue, both of which cause tooth sensitivity.
In terms of preventive measures, fluoride plays an important role in modern dentistry because it hardens the teeth and makes them more resistant to decay. There are many different types of fluoride home care programs now available that enhance the effects of fluoride on the teeth. Indeed, the more effort you put into proper care for your teeth, the greater will be your dividends in comfort and better overall health. Roger C. Tullis, D.D.S.