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Teeth and the mouth

Many of us take our teeth for granted. It's often only nasty surprises at the dentist or a jolt that our breath will concuss a man that we start taking our oral health seriously.

Our teeth are an asset, vital to our quality of life. They provide self confidence, and allow us to feel more ourselves, particularly when we smile! In fact, when we're happy, there's nothing like smiling big! Our teeth may not be perfect, in fact it's imperfections that give us character, but good oral hygiene is more about spending a few minutes each day to floss and clean than anything else.

A little about teeth

Adults have 28 to 32 teeth depending whether the person finally grows their wisdom teeth, which do not appear in everyone. In many cases, wisdom teeth don’t emerge fully from the gum because of over-crowding. Your dentist will determine whether they are best left alone or taken out.

Teeth are largely made up of dentin on the outside and a pulp on the inside where blood vessels and nerve endings are situated. The crown, or visible part of a tooth, is covered with about 2mm of enamel. Below the gum line, the root of the tooth is made from cementum. Both dentin and cementum are tough, bony substances.

Teeth are ‘glued’ by a special membrane that anchors them to the surrounding socket. Poor oral hygiene or the failure to clean and floss your teeth regularly weakens the mouth’s ability to fight off infections and the membrane that fixes your teeth to the sockets. Consequently, despite the best efforts of saliva, which is you body’s natural answer to bleach, you are more inclined to get mouth ulcers and bleeding gums – obvious gateways for bacterial infections like gingivitis and viral infections like hepatitis and HIV.

A little bit about teeth

Bad breath

Bad breath is caused by bacteria, tooth decay, smoking or rich and spicy food. It can seem particularly unpleasant when you wake up in the morning after you’ve been drinking the night before. During the night your body produces less saliva (a natural mouthwash) and a thin, creamy coating forms over your teeth, tongue and gums. Healthy bacteria break it down producing mild toxins which smell and taste horrid. However, in some cases bad breath can be caused by medication and stomach ulcers.

"We flirted along the South Bank, his cute arse just begging for it as he leant over the pier at Butler's Wharf. There is nothing more intoxicating than the moment on a date when you know that after fucking each other's brains out there will be something else to talk about. As we moved in for the first kiss, I reeled back from a tsunami of putrid toxins, lost my balance, and fell into his mouth. To make matters worse, my distress was plain to see and he looked about apologetically for a culprit. A dick shrivelled and cold pre cum was all that was left of the date and a memory, seared into conciousness, stepping into dog shit on my way to school, the heady aroma of gelatinous pooh taking my gag reflex to the next level." Tony, London 2014

Plaque

Plaque is a sticky coating on the teeth made up of saliva, bacteria and particles of food. It is the main cause of tooth decay and gingivitis (an infection of the gums). If allowed to accumulate it will become hard and increasingly difficult to remove. Plaque begins to form within hours of cleaning and is responsible for the furry feeling of un-brushed teeth. If the gums are unhealthy the plaque tends to spread more quickly. The bacteria can also rapidly erode teeth enamel and voilà… a cavity! Or voilà, voilà, voilà… lots of cavities that need filling. Plaque should be removed at least twice a day using a toothbrush and dental floss.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is usually caused by a build-up of plaque. It is thought that the toxins produced by bacteria within the plaque irritate the gums, causing them to become infected, tender and swollen. Gingivitis can also result from injury to the gums, usually from rough brushing of teeth or flossing as if you’re lassoing a steer. Healthy gums are pink or brown and firm. Poorly gums become a reddish-purple, mushy, shiny and swollen. The gums bleed easily during brushing and are often tender. Good oral hygiene is the main means of preventing and treating gingivitis – and not letting the plaque form in the first place. In some cases, a special mouthwash will ease the symptoms.

Tips for teeth

  • You should visit a dentist every six months. If not, or if you leave it until pain and discomfort occurs, you are storing up potentially horrific problems for later on.
  • Clean your teeth at least twice a day, ideally after each meal. This should take no less than 3-4 minutes.
  • Renew your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every couple of months, or per instructions.
  • Electric toothbrushes are recommended, especially for removing plaque.
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day to help prevent your gums from receding (a major cause of tooth loss).
  • After meals use a toothpick to dislodge food from between your teeth.
  • Chewing gum produces saliva which breaks down bacteria. Choose a sugar-free variety.
  • Sugar rots teeth, so choose foods, sweets and drinks with reduced or no sugar.
  • Mouthwashes and freshener sprays mask bad breath, they don’t sort it out.
  • Teeth whiteners which use bleach can produce results but can damage the enamel. Check with your dentist first.

Find a Dentist | NHS Choices
Gum disease | Tooth decay | Toothache | NHS Choices
British Dental Health Foundation | British Dental Foundation
Teeth | Wikipedia

How to brush your teeth with a manual toothbrush | Brush DJ  | 2m25s

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