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Teeth - To Have or Not To Have

Updated on August 24, 2009
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A stitch in time saves nine. There are many who have understood it the hard way, many who took advantage and avoided situations. This sometimes coincides with a similar phrase wherein - we tend to realize the worth of an object only after we have lost it for good.

Neglected often is oral health.

Not realizing until reminded in the most painful of ways that the object in question is the very reason for ones existence. Ignored are facts that the first phase and the critical phase of digestion initiate with chewing. Salivation and thus mixing of food with continuous chewing is the first of the series of complex procedures undertaken by the body, which results in the extraction of energy from the food, better known as digestion.

The sweetness that sets in on constant chewing on a particular mouthful is an indication to the digestion in process. Half digested and hence swallowed the process proceeds into the next phase and thus is taken forward by stomach and another series of enzymes, also with involvement of the enzymes of the liver.

Bad teeth means bad first phase digestion. Bad first phase digestion means the bad propagates into the following phases resulting in bad digestion altogether.

Bad digestion often results and is the sole cause for health problems.

Dentists often quote patients having told them of the healthier days their patients had experienced before teething problems tore them apart.

If we rebuilt the chain of events that resulted in such a misery we can pinpoint with precision that the beginning was with oral health neglect.

Yes, it is an accepted fact that you do take care of your teeth. You brush your teeth twice daily, you gargle with mouthwash agents. Yes. It is worth appreciating that you’re doing something than nothing. Good. But, are you doing it right?

Are you brushing the right way, are you rinsing enough after meals, are you taking care of teeth being totally aware of the do’s and don’ts?

Let’s begin our exploration by starting with the teeth.


What is a tooth?

Teeth are built and have evolved over a period of time into perfect machinery for processing food with capabilities of biting, tearing, chewing, mixing, grinding, crushing and all.

Within the strong enamel of the tooth is the pulp, enclosed within the root canals, the root canals being hooked on to the jaw, supported by a bony structure and held in place and also strengthened by the gums.

The pulp is what keeps the tooth alive. It has nerves and blood vessels, which means, you could feel this area and hence could be a source of pain.

Infection of this area would call for a root-canal treatment. Containing the infection is the only chance your tooth could be saved.

Like any perfect machinery that needs maintenance and attention, the teeth too need care and attention. Care because it’s the only set for a lifetime (of course, the dentist could give you one), which means the body is not capable of growing a newer one.

Since the body has manufactured teeth, using bodily substances, it is prone to attack by microbes sharing space with humankind.


How do teeth decay?

Yes, microbes those scavengers of nature, help clean up the leftovers in the mouth, because your daily grind kept you so busy that you lacked the time to rinse your mouth thoroughly after the meals you’ve had.

Don’t blame the microbes for having taken cleaning to their hearts (hoping they have one); with all the food coming in, they built shelters for themselves. Don’t blame them if the teeth get partly damaged here and there. It is rigorous cleaning they do! With a big and growing family, the damage in the teeth was renovated for settlements and was christened a cavity.

Population as always has a price to pay. The cavity deepened. Deeper and deeper until the microbes struck gold! Gold! Sorry, more food … plenty of food … this time they tasted blood!!! Hereon in it was one hell of a feast.

As families tasted more and more of blood and thrived exceedingly well, you tasted pain. Excruciating pain and a well deserved one too. Pain is what you would ultimately suffer if you leave your affairs unto strangers.

The drama that just unfolded is my friend; the stage at which we could say the tooth has been infected.


What other problems can teeth suffer from?

There are plenty of infections that could arise, not just to the pulp, but also to the gums. Gingivitis and Periodontitis are infections that affect the gums.

Gum problems often end up damaging the bony structure the tooth is composed of. The bony structure starts wearing off and during the initial stages of such a wear-off its termed Gingivitis. Prolonged wear-off without any preventive treatment and medical attention would lead to a stage called the Periodontitis. At this stage, there are minimal chances the tooth could survive. You would virtually see a healthy tooth die.


Flossing

Flossing is a method of cleansing the teeth. But, when it’s done the wrong way or when done hurting or damaging the gums, and when the damaged gums are left untreated, infection could set in. The gravity of this particular infection is your tooth could be dying even while you are under the false impression of having healthy teeth.

While flossing, thread in enough to knockout stubborn residue. Do not go deep as to hurt the gums and damage them. Hurt gums could be the start of newer problems. Flossing is to use a thread as a means of reaching for areas where the bristles of a brush fail to reach, the gaps between teeth. Carefulness is required during this procedure.


Rinsing

Make it a habit to rinse your mouth with plenty of water after eating a meal or having a drink. A meal could mean anything that you had to chew on, even a toffee counts. Drink could include alcohol, beverages, fruit-juice, milk anything at all. You’ve enjoyed your meal or drink, why would you want the microbes to have a share. You need to pay the price, remember.


Brushing

Brush in such a way as to remove residue if any between lining of gum and enamel. Brush partly massaging the gums and continue down along the enamel. Do not hurt the gums. Massage the gums using your forefinger after finishing brushing with a brush. Massaging the gums sets in better blood circulation. Brush the insides of the teeth as well. The outer shine is just not enough if it’s healthy teeth that you are in pursuit of. Of course, brush along the surface of the molars (the teeth you use to chew), bristle between the fine gaps between teeth. Feel for residual food and have it flushed out. Reach out for tooth in the inside and show it some attention, else, it would call for attention at a later date.


Toothpicks

Use of toothpicks and other foreign objects as a means of residue removal could at times back fire. Food has been lodged in the tooth, as there is a gap. Use of toothpicks and other objects could widen the gap, meaning lodging of more food and hence aggravating an already aggravated problem. Try rinsing with water and brushing instead.


Saliva

Microbes thrive in an acidic environment. The environment within the mouth turns acidic due to presence of residual food. Saliva by itself has neutralizing effects on the acidic influence and could bring down the acidity. But it needs supporting conditions. If you were lazy to rinse and expect the saliva to do its cleaning act, the magic wouldn’t work. Microbes would be happy to show you a few tricks and dazzle you.

Acidity reduces with dilution with water. Rinse your mouth! It’s as simple as that. After every intake of food, solid or liquid have your mouth rinsed thoroughly. This would minimize the acid buildup and hence its effect on the tooth enamel.


Fluoride Toothpaste

Use fluoride toothpaste, this reduces cavities and strengthens tooth enamel. Rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash could also be helpful. Take suggestions from your dentist on what to use, based on severity stronger toothpaste or mouthwash would be prescribed.

Avoid carbonated drinks as much as possible. Soft drinks, soda or better known by the brand name is a potent source for cavities.


Six Steps To Save Your Teeth

Try to follow these steps towards protecting your teeth and gums:

  1. Brush your teeth and gums twice a day especially after eating breakfast and before bedtime with fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Visit the dentist regularly.
  3. Floss your teeth daily.
  4. Rinse your teeth, preferably fluoride rinse for strong and healthy teeth and gums.
  5. Eat healthy and get plenty of calcium.
  6. Use a mouth guard to protect your teeth when playing sports.

Microbial behavior could not necessarily be the sole problem to teeth. Hereditary, hormonal changes, genetics and many more could be indirect reasons for tooth problems. Sometimes geographical locations could also play a role.

Bad odor, pain in the gums, tooth pain, stained teeth, shaky tooth, bleeding tooth, weak tooth, any of these and more could be indication of tooth in trouble. Do not wait for that final electrifying pain to strike you before you know the way to the dentist. Any day is a good day to have the teeth checked up and verified.

Certain recent studies have demonstrated of an association between Periodontitis, the gum disease we discussed earlier and certain systemic diseases, such as stroke, diabetes, and heart disease! Research is still underway to understand on the exact nature of this association.

Replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if it shows signs of wear.

Quit smoking or tobacco use in any form to avoid risking oral cancer, gingivitis, periodontitis and tooth decay. Tobacco consumption also contributes to teeth staining and bad breath.

Subject your mouth to regular self-examination. Look out for swollen gums, damaged teeth, sores or lesions on your gums, cheeks or tongue.

Unlike the character in the ‘Castaway’ movie where he had to pull out his aching tooth in a very dramatic way being isolated and beyond the reach of medical help, you could garner the services of a good dentist and stay in good health. Find the time and take the effort to visit the dentist before it’s too late.

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