Teeth: Love them or Lose them

Even though the United States is number nine in the world for best dental care, half of Americans have gum disease, and one in five Americans over age 65 does not have teeth at all. Losing teeth is not a part of getting older; losing teeth is a result of gum disease and rotting teeth, cavities.

What causes gum disease and cavities?

The reason is due to a combination of inadequate teeth brushing, unhealthy food choices, illness and how healthy your parents’ teeth were.

The Story of Gum Disease and Rotting Teeth

Of these reasons, you have in your power the ability to brush your teeth well and to make healthier food choices. Why does this matter? Bacteria are germs, and they are found everywhere - including your mouth.

When you eat, some of the food gets left over on your teeth; if you do not brush your teeth, the bacteria can start eating this leftover food. After eating, the bacteria will poop, and this is the yellow coating on teeth called plaque. Plaque is a huge troublemaker because it makes your teeth look yellow, and it contains acid which eats away at the gums and teeth. This leads to gum disease with red, swollen, painful gums and rotting teeth. When both the gums and teeth are damaged, the teeth will fall out.

This is the reason you need to brush your teeth - so that you can brush away plaque. This is also the reason you need to eat healthy - so that you can have less acid in your mouth. You can eat healthier by avoiding sugary foods such as pop, juice and candy.

How to Clean Your Mouth

The American Dental Association recommends the following:
1. Teeth need to be flossed every day;
2. Teeth need to be brushed in the morning and at night;
3. Dentures need to be cleaned every day;
4. You should see the dentist every 6 months, even if you don’t have teeth.

Flossing your teeth is the most important first step because you remove plaque even before you start brushing. Proper flossing involves curving the string along the surface of your tooth into gum line right next to the tooth.

After flossing, you should brush your teeth for two minutes; select a toothbrush with soft bristles and a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride helps protect the teeth from rotting. The brushing motion should be short, gentle, circular strokes. An electric toothbrush can give you more action and help you clean more thoroughly.

Even though you floss and brush at home, you should still visit the dentist every six months for a professional cleaning and a professional check of your mouth. Yes, even if you do not have teeth, you still need to go to the dentist twice a year because dentures may need to be adjusted to fit comfortably for optimal chewing and speaking.

If you floss and brush your teeth every day and avoid sugary foods, you can stop plaque from damaging your gums and teeth and you can help prevent teeth from falling out. If you take care of your teeth, they will last for as long as you live.

Note: Amy Trinh, DO, is a family medicine resident physician at Penn Highlands Healthcare. Family Medicine residents, working with board certified family doctors, care for patients of all ages. They treat patients for acute and chronic illnesses and injuries, as well as routine and preventive care. To schedule an appointment with one of our residents in the clinic located in the Medical Arts Building, Suite 315, DuBois, call 814-503-4305.