Tooth decay and gum disease are largely caused by plaque, a sticky combination of bacteria and food. Plaque begins to accumulate on teeth within 20 minutes after eating. If this plaque is not removed thoroughly each day, tooth decay will flourish. Over time, plaque will harden into tartar.
Plaque and tartar lead to a number of problems:
Healthy teeth are clean and have no cavities. Healthy gums are pink and firm. To maintain healthy teeth and gums, follow these steps:
Ask your dentist:
Regular teeth cleaning by a dentist removes plaque that may develop even with careful brushing and flossing, especially in areas that are difficult for you to reach on your own. Professional cleaning includes scaling and polishing. This uses various instruments or devices to loosen and remove deposits from the teeth. Routine examination may include dental x-rays.
See also plaque identification at home.
Teeth - caring for
Messadi DV, Younai FS. Halitosis. Dermatol Clin. 2003;21:147-155.
Updated by: Paul Fotek, DMD, Florida Institute for Periodontics & Dental lmplants, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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