Before you jump into an experiment, you need to brush-up on your dental IQ.
Open up! Say a word, give a smile or chew some food. What do you need for these activities? Your teeth! Teeth are an important part of your mouth. You’d certainly look different without them. Imagine trying to talk without teeth – most of the words would sound like baby-talk.
Speaking of babies, why do babies eat food that’s smooth? It’s because they don’t have teeth. Chewing is a tooth’s most important job. You need teeth to break apart the food you put in your mouth.
Everyone has two sets of teeth. You’re about six-months-old when the first set pops through. These teeth are small. As children reach ages five or six, baby teeth start falling out to make room for bigger teeth, the permanent teeth. Permanent means these teeth are supposed to last your entire life! You continue to lose your baby teeth until age 12-13.
To make sure your teeth last a long time, you have to take care of them. Just like you exercise, sleep, eat and visit the doctor to keep your body in good shape, you have to work to keep your teeth healthy. For teeth, healthy means prevent cavities. A cavity is a hole in your tooth that comes from plaque. Plaque is bacteria; germs that put a film, a coating on your teeth. You can’t see plaque, but it’s always there. The bacteria in the plaque live off the sugars you eat and drink. When you digest sugary things they produce an acid that causes cavities. If you let the plaque accumulate in your mouth, you can get a cavity.
If you snack a lot and don’t brush your teeth, the cavity machine goes to work. Some of the problem foods include snacks that are sticky and sugary. Foods with sugar, like candy and cookies can be a big problem; so can starchy foods like crackers and cereal. Unfortunately, some of these foods are our favorites. You can still eat them, but in moderation. A good choice is to eat a variety of foods from the five food groups: dairy, protein, fruits, vegetables, and grains. Then, limit the number of snacks that you eat and try to choose nutritious foods like cheese, raw vegetables and fruit.
The best drink choice for a healthy mouth is water. In Kentucky, the water from your tap contains fluoride. Fluoride helps lay the foundation for strong teeth and helps to fight cavities. Sodas and bottled water do not contain fluoride. Sodas, energy drinks and juices also contain lots of sugar.
Water is an excellent choice if you plan to have a sugary snack. The water can wash away the sugar that’s in your mouth. Water is also an inexpensive drink; you can fill several dozen glasses at the faucet for around a penny.
Have you brushed your teeth today? It’s important to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Brushing after every meal is even better. Also, make sure to get a new toothbrush every six months so germs don’t build up. Use dental floss to clean between your teeth. The thread in the floss catches pieces of food and plaque the toothbrush missed.
Just like the doctor checks your heart and lungs, the dentist checks your mouth and gums. The dentist and a hygienist check your teeth, take pictures of them with an x-ray machine and make sure you clean your teeth correctly. It’s important to visit the dentist on a regular schedule.