Small but incredible. That is the perfect way to describe our mouth. It probably looks like a machine with simple mechanisms when you look at it. Food passes through the mouth, teeth chew it, and the tongue lets you taste and swallow it. However, it is not that simple. Our mouth is a complex system wherein different processes occur in it, and living things live within it.
As children, we had moments of anxiety when we know we will soon visit the dentist. Therefore, we were told that as long as we keep our teeth clean, a check-up will not be necessary. That is not enough though. We must know all about our mouths – its parts, the microbes found in it, and how it works as a system. Good thing you have access to these types of information because we have the Internet. It may come in handy when you plan on how to effectively manage you and your family’s dental hygiene.
The Journey of a Tooth – An Oral Hygiene Primer
Imagine your mouth as a video game. Your teeth are the players, the good bacteria are power-ups, the bad bacteria are the enemies, and the other parts contribute to the whole game too. A tooth passes through stages just like a player in a game. It first starts from the gums and will soon erupt. Then it grows and eventually falls out. They have another spare life, and will, fortunately, grow into a bigger and stronger tooth.
The first stage would be the baby teeth. Scientifically known as deciduous teeth or milk teeth, these are the first teeth that come out of a baby’s gums. Babies start to undergo this painful process by the age of 6 to 12 months. The pain causes them to be fussier and teethers often used to soothe their inflamed gums. One by one, these teeth will fall off when a child reaches 6 to 8 years old. They will eventually be regenerated and reborn as permanent teeth.
On this stage, the permanent teeth are much sturdier and durable against breaking and erosion. Adults are expected to have 32 permanent teeth when they reach 20 years old. When they fall off, they are not growing back anymore.
Different Types of Teeth
If the mouth is a game and the teeth are the players, there are various types of players too. Some have special characteristics and capabilities, similar to a superpower. A human mouth has incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Each with a different look and purpose.
The front teeth, called incisors, are mainly used to cut food into smaller pieces. Imagine how hard it will be to eat without your 8 incisors. Food will not be tiny enough for your other teeth to chew on. Often called human fangs because of its pointy shape, all four of your canines aid in biting and speaking.
When it comes to chewing, grinding, and chomping down food, the premolars and molars are the teeth with those capabilities. With 8 premolars and 12 molars, food is broken down into the tiniest pieces that can easily be swallowed down the throat and digested in the stomach. Even though they are big, they are the most susceptible to tooth decay and tooth erosion.
An extra special character in this game is the wisdom tooth. Sometimes it appears, sometimes it does not. Called third molars, these teeth are usually extracted when its growth directly impacts the other molars. Many believe that this tooth was important back in the ancient ages when food is not yet cooked and are usually hard to chew. The extra molar helps in grinding this kind of food back then. And as humans and their culture have evolved, the body has figured out that it’s not much needed anymore. That’s why it does not always erupt from the gums.
Mouth and Tooth Structures
Some units and structures make up the tooth. In general, we have the pulp cavity, dentin, and enamel. Starting with the innermost unit in a tooth, the pulp is at the centre of the tooth and is comprised of numerous blood vessels and nerves. It is a sensitive part that gets inflamed and infected when the cavity reaches it. Most people who had the worst cases of pulp cavity problems go through surgeries like root canal.
The next unit is the dentin. Made of layers of tissues, it is responsible for the pulp cavity protection. If someone has tooth decay and the dentin has been left exposed, the person could experience intense sharp pain when they eat food, whether it is hot or cold. This excruciating situation is too much for some, and they require extraction services from dentists or dental specialists to alleviate the pain.
Serving as the tooth’s outer covering, the enamel is the yellowish-white surface you see when you look at a tooth. Our bones are proven to be strong, but the enamel is even stronger. It protects the tooth against acids we get from eating sweet starchy foods, and plaques we acquire because of poor oral hygiene. While the bone is capable of regenerating, the enamel is not. That is the reason why dentists make it a point to remind people to take care of their teeth’s surface.
The teeth are not the only thing that works inside the mouth. There is the tementum which grips a tooth and holds it in the gum. The periodontal ligament has almost the same function but instead holds the teeth to both lower and upper jaws. The salivary glands have the vital role of creating saliva, which helps in the digestive process and helps maintain the mouth’s overall cleanliness.
Aside from giving us the sense of taste, the tongue is also essential to human beings because it is a tool for human speech. It also pushes food towards the throat and starts the process of digestion outside the mouth. Studies and data about the purpose of the uvula has not yet been fruitful, but most would agree that it contributes to the process of speaking.
Some parts of the mouth are neglected in oral hygiene. Brushing the teeth is not enough. One must know how to effectively use floss and mouthwash to clean the gums and the tongue. When put together, these units build a complex structure. The teeth, tongue, gums, and other parts of the mouth should be regularly cleaned so that people can maximize their use. Just like in a game, the game itself will not load properly when its components are not functioning well.
Oral Bacteria: The Good and The Bad
Germs, bacteria, and fungi do exist in the human mouth. It may sound odd and disgusting, but not all bacteria found in the oral cavity is bad for your health. There are good bacteria too, and most often, they both co-exist in the mouth.
Don’t panic, but there are more than 6 billion bacteria in a human’s mouth. It is hard to imagine something with billions in amount inside a tiny opening. You are always conscious to put clean food in your mouth, so you are probably wondering how bacteria can still exist inside it. In a game, good guys exist to help you win that stage, and there are bad guys who will make it hard for you to reach your goal. Good bacteria in your mouth are your friends, while bad bacteria are your foes.
A percentage of that six billion bacteria are harmful ones. They are pathogenic bacteria that cause tooth decay, tooth erosion, tooth loss, and gum inflammation. Microorganisms called Streptococcus mutans are the main culprit in the destruction of tooth enamel. They break down starch and sugar, which creates an acidic product that easily destroys the tooth’s primary barrier. Thrombosis, bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease are some of the diseases and infections brought by these oral bacteria.
Poor oral hygiene is the only reason why these kinds of bacteria lurk in the mouth. Gum infections, like Periodontitis, is experienced by humans when they fail to properly clean their oral cavity. Once you have this infection, microbes known as Porphyromonas gingivalis will immediately start appearing in your mouth. This bacteria is capable of making your tooth loose by destroying the tissues and bones that support it. When left untreated, it can result in multiple teeth loss.
With proper dental hygiene, these bad guys will not be able to stand against you. There are also good bacteria that will help you along the way. Some of these good bacteria are probiotics — microorganisms that are proven to help in the prevention of oral infections and diseases. If your teeth have plaque on it, probiotics can also do the job of reducing its amount and removing them entirely. But probiotics cannot do everything alone, it should always be accompanied by an effective dental routine that you regularly do.
Oral Hygiene Dos and Don’ts
Taking probiotic supplements, and dental visits to cure your tooth ailments are not the right habits for your teeth and oral cavity. There are small routine and lifestyle changes you can start doing to lower the risk of tooth decay. One of those activities is drinking water. It has been proven effective in maintaining the cleanliness of the mouth. Mouth dryness also contributes to tooth erosion. Avoid drinking juices and sodas. For better oral health, get the hang of drinking water whenever you can.
Speaking of juices, you should also limit your consumption of citrus food and fruits. These are known to produce acid and plaque that are not good for your teeth, and these can eventually make your tooth enamel erode. Just remember to rinse your mouth with water after eating citrusy and sweet foods. The water will help in removing acid residues on your teeth and gums. You may also brush your teeth, but not immediately after consuming these kinds of food. The acids have weakened the enamel and brushing your teeth harshly will just result in tooth erosion. Wait for at least an hour before grabbing your toothbrush.
Brushing the teeth is one of the best practices towards good dental health. Though, there is a dentist-recommended way of doing it. Instead of the usual side-to-side brush strokes, you must try to angle the brush’s bristles at 45 degrees and start doing small gentle strokes. The premise behind this is that the enamel is made durable by the help of its rods. Brushing the teeth harshly can result in the erosion of that enamel. Moreover, doing repeated horizontal brush strokes go against the direction of the rods, and this practice can make them weak. Also, check your toothbrush if it already needs to be replaced. It is recommended by professionals to change your brush about every three months.
And of course, one must always consult a dentist. Dental check-ups are important, and teeth cleaning done by a professional will help in keeping your oral cavity clean. Dentists still accommodate patients with healthy teeth, and you do not need to wait for a tooth disease before you visit a dental clinic. Home remedies are great, but it is always best to seek the help of a specialist when you have dental and oral problems. Some diseases cannot be cured at home and special tools and solutions are needed in removing unwanted plaque and tartar. Our dentists will happily assist you in your dental needs. They will instruct you on how to effectively care for your teeth, and on what must be done regarding your oral cavity issues.