Teeth are truly astonishing. They effectively bite, cut, grind, gnash, and chop a wide variety of foods, including everything from hard nuts to tough meats and sturdy vegetables. Yet with proper care, they can last upwards of 70 to 80 years of near-constant use with little to no decline in performance.
Believe it or not, the biggest danger to your teeth exists not outside but inside your mouth. As a natural part of the human digestive system, the mouth is home to entire colonies of bacteria whose job it is to help break down the food and drinks we consume. But when these bacteria are fed things like sugar, they can start to break down the teeth as well.
It’s not actually the sugar itself that is bad for teeth. It’s the waste that is left behind by the bacteria in your mouth feeding on the sugars. This waste can cause a biofilm known as dental plaque.
When plaque sits on the surface of teeth, it can allow bacterial recyclers to hang out on your teeth longer. Eventually, they start to create acids. And it’s these acids that actually wear down the tooth enamel, resulting in cavities.
In addition, bacteria in the plaque that forms near the gum line can produce toxic products that enter the gum tissue. The result is gingivitis, also known as bad breath. Left untreated, gingivitis can become periodontitis, a much more serious disease of the mouth and gum that can result in bone and tissue loss around the teeth.
The solution is actually quite simple: Remove the plaque regularly by brushing after every meal, using an antimicrobial mouthwash daily, and flossing between teeth at least once per day. These techniques are highly effective and preventing harmful bacteria from reproducing in your mouth and causing tooth decay and other problems.
Seeing your dentist regularly can also help protect your smile and allow you to keep your natural teeth for the rest of your life.