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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Teeth

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

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

Excessive fluoride causes teeth to become porous. The problem is not the water supply: Since 1950, the American Dental Association has recommended fluoridation of community water supplies because it makes teeth harder and more resistant to decay. The problem occurs when children ingest extra fluoride, typically by swallowing too much toothpaste. Unlike water, toothpaste “is meant to work only topically,” Kakanantadilok says.

To make sure children don’t swallow toothpaste, supervise them while they’re brushing. Tell them to squeeze out only a pea-size amount of paste so that they won’t accidentally swallow too much. Most cases of fluorosis involve children who used more than that. Kakanantadilok recommends that kids stick to fluoride-free paste until they understand that they need to spit it out, not swallow it.

No. 5: Braces can cause cavities.

Brush well if you want your straightened teeth to be healthy teeth. Otherwise, food, bacteria, and acid stuck around braces can “slough the enamel away,” says Raymond George Sr., DMD, president of the American Association of Orthodontists.

The result can look bad.

“You actually start forming cavities around the brackets of the braces,” Kakanantadilok says. Even if the decay doesn’t fully develop into a cavity, it can cause “demineralization.” The result are light spots on the teeth. (As cavities progress, they then get darker.)

The tongue is nature’s toothbrush, Keels says. When people get braces, they tend to stop rubbing their tongue against their teeth because it’s not comfortable to hit metal. “You’re not tongue brushing anymore,” she says. The result can be a build-up of “gunk.”

About 3.9 million U.S. kids are getting orthodontic treatment, and 1.1 million U.S. adults are, too, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. In the age of perfect movie-star teeth, adults want nicer choppers, too.

But it's not just about looks. Adults also want healthier teeth. After all, Keels says, “crowded mouths are harder to clean.”

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Reviewed on March 19, 2009

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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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