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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Teeth

Brace yourself: Sugar Isn’t the only dental villain.
By Karen Springen
WebMD Feature

You use your teeth to talk, chew, and smile. But here are some other "teeth facts" you probably didn’t know about your pearly whites.

No. 1: Sour can be just as bad as sweet.

Sugar isn’t the only dental villain that undermines healthy teeth. Acidic, low-pH foods -- sour candy, soft drinks, fruit juices -- soften teeth. The result: enamel erosion and diminished tooth size. “Citric acid is the worst acid for your teeth,” says Martha Keels, DDS, chief of pediatric dentistry at Duke’s Children’s Hospital. “We’re seeing acid erosion every day.”

Dentists’ worst nightmare: ultra-sour, ultra-sticky, ultra-sugary kids’ candies such as Warheads and Toxic Waste. Even sour gummy vitamins can be culprits.

“These sour candies, when tested, have a really low pH, nearing battery acid,” says Robyn Loewen, DDS, a fellow in the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and a diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. “I liken it to an ice cube that’s been left on the counter. It melts the tooth.”

To make matters worse, children’s tooth enamel isn’t mature until a decade after their teeth erupt, Loewen says. Because it’s softer, “it’s more susceptible to the acid.”

Adults aren’t off the hook: Low pH fare includes sour mango Altoids and even sugar-free soft drinks.

If you’re going to consume highly acidic foods, do it during mealtime, Keels says. You’ll minimize the effects by consuming them along with other foods. Better yet, chew xylitol-containing gum, such as Ice Breakers Ice Cubes, Trident, or Orbit, Keels says. Xylitol fakes out bacteria and may even help prevent cavities. Gums containing Recaldent, such as Trident, will help teeth remineralize and resist tooth decay. Finally, brushing periodically with baking soda has been shown to neutralize acids in the mouth, which reduces the amount of acid-loving bacteria that cause cavities.

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How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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