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