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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Teeth

Brace yourself: Sugar Isn’t the only dental villain.

No. 2: Enamel is the hardest substance in the body, but it can break easily.

Ice, popcorn, and tongue and lip piercings can chip teeth.

And unlike skin, teeth can’t re-grow. “We’re not like beavers,” says American Dental Association spokesman Richard Price, DMD.

Dentists detest ice and popcorn. Eating a popcorn kernel is like eating “stone,” Price says. And ice is brittle. “You have a combination of something ultra hard and something ultra hard,” he says. Be especially careful if your mouth is full of fillings. “You wouldn’t run a marathon with a bad leg,” he says. “Don’t chomp away if your teeth aren’t as strong as they used to be.”

Dentists also “hate” piercings of the tongue and lip, says Nuntiya Kakanantadilok, DMD, director of the division of pediatric dentistry at Montefiore Medical Center. The metal jewelry harbors bacteria -- and can chip teeth.

A metal barbell-like tongue ring is especially bad. “Every time you talk, it hits your teeth,” says Paul Casamassimo, DDS, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and chairman of pediatric dentistry at Ohio State University.

A 2007 review study published in the American Journal of Dentistry showed that 14% to 41% of people with oral piercings suffered from tooth fractures and wear. They noted that piercing in the mouth may cause “significant oral deformities” and “may lead to tooth loss.”

To keep healthy teeth, treat them with TLC. “Don’t use your teeth as pliers,” Price says. “They weren’t made to straighten out the tine of the fork.”

No. 3. You can be missing teeth at any age.

Although many people get a tooth, or all 32, pulled, some folks are born missing choppers. The most common missing ones are the wisdom teeth. The second most common is the lateral incisor, which is located next to the big front tooth. People can inherit missing teeth.

Still, the most frequent causes of tooth loss are gum disease and cavities.

A number of people find it cheaper and easier to pull all their teeth than to pay for fillings and implants. After all, implants can cost about $2,000 per tooth, whereas a cheap set of dentures can cost less than $1,000, Keels says.

Studies show that 22.8% of Americans 65-74 and 29.4% of Americans 75 and older wear dentures.

No. 4: Too much fluoride can be bad for your teeth.

We know that fluoride is important for healthy teeth. But kids who ingest excessive amounts of this substance when they’re 8 or younger, when their permanent teeth are developing under the gums, can develop a condition known as fluorosis. Typically fluorisis starts out causing white spots, but they can become brown. Unfortunately, fluorisis stains are “intrinsic,” which means the dentist cannot simply polish off a surface stain.

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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