A visit to the dentist feels like a very routine procedure, but this isn’t something new. Human beings have been aware of the importance of oral hygiene for thousands of years. Ancient Arabs used tree branches to clean their teeth and replenish their mouth’s good bacteria. The Ancient Greeks were already using a medieval form of modern toothpaste even before them.
All this is to say, it is essential to know your teeth. We use them every day, so it makes sense that we should know a little bit more about how to take care of them. Maintaining oral hygiene isn’t just for aesthetics and broad smiles. Our oral health is linked to other parts of the body, and it can signal many health issues if you know where to look.
Therefore, we will start by understanding the different types of teeth and then discuss how to better care for them!
Types of Teeth
You probably know all about your molars and canines, but these aren’t the only types of teeth. There’s a broader term for our teeth when we are still in infancy and growing up.
One of the first types of teeth we get as babies are milk teeth. These teeth start developing when the baby is still a fetus inside the mother’s womb. The teeth erupt when the baby is between 6 to 12 months old. A child can have a complete set of 20 milk teeth by the time they are 3.
One of the first childhood memories for any person is their teeth falling off. That’s because milk teeth are temporary. They have the same job of allowing children to chew and eat food, but as a child starts to age beyond 6 years old, these teeth gradually begin to fall out to make room for adult teeth!
Unlike your baby teeth, a complete set of adult teeth consists of 32 teeth, a number everyone is familiar with. They start to emerge as soon as the baby teeth begin to fall out. By the time a child reaches the age of 14, they usually have a complete set of adult teeth.
Also, it should be noted that wisdom teeth don’t grow until after you are 17 years of age. Wisdom teeth are third molars that grow in the back of the mouth and require dental attention in most cases. X-rays are recommended to keep yourself updated on their progress since they can also change position, preventing them from fully growing.
Usually, wisdom teeth are removed at the suggestion of a dentist. This can be done through standard extraction. If the case is complicated, the dentist will advise surgical extraction on an anesthetic.
We know the two broad kinds of teeth developed during our lifetime. What about the types of teeth at a more detailed level? Let’s take a look.
These are the pointy companions of our front teeth, which we use to tear chewy foods. They are positioned right next to our incisors. We have 4 canines, 2 on the upper mandible and 2 on the lower.
These are the front teeth and are used for chopping food into small pieces. A complete set of incisors includes 8 teeth, with 4 on the upper jaw and 4 on the lower jaw.
Premolars lie between our canines and molars. The purpose of premolars is to aid in crushing and chewing food. Premolars have a flat surface area that facilitates their function. We have 8 premolars in total, with half of them resting on the upper jaw and half on the lower.
Molars are the strongest teeth with the broadest surface area because we rely on them to grind food to a fine mesh. They are at the back of the mouth and, like premolars, are 8 in total. Since we have 2 molars each, on the right and left sides of the mandibles, the wisdom teeth are also called third molars.
Anatomy of Teeth
In order to take steps toward improving oral hygiene, it is essential to understand the structure of our teeth. We’ve learned about the different types of teeth, so now let’s explore their structure in a little more detail!
All teeth have 3 layers: the enamel, dentin, and pulp. The layers serve to act either as protective coatings for the teeth or provide them with blood nutrition.
Enamel is the shiny outermost layer of our teeth. Our teeth get their white color from the enamel. It is harder than bones and is composed of calcium and phosphates. Enamel protects the sensitive parts of our teeth. It should be noted that enamel does not grow and is prone to decay from the buildup of plaque.
Dentin is the second layer beyond enamel, and it is also harder than bones. In fact, enamel and dentin are the hardest materials in the human body. Dentin comprises three layers, including the primary, secondary, and reparative layers. It makes up most of the tooth by volume and protects the inner part called “pulp.” Unlike enamel, dentin continues to grow throughout our life.
The pulp can be thought of as the living part of teeth. While the outer two layers mainly protect the tooth and are composed of minerals and inorganic elements, pulp consists of healthy blood vessels and nerve endings network. The blood supply allows for the maintenance of healthy teeth. At the same time, the nerve endings act as receptors to send messages to the central nervous system and alert the brain about tooth pain, decay, or temperature changes.
Parts of a Tooth
The structure of a tooth can be divided into three parts based on their function and location:
The crown is the part of our teeth visible to us just above the gum line.
The cementum is the pulp layer’s base and covers the root of a tooth. It is a protective covering for the roots.
c. Periodontal Fibers
Our teeth are not moving bodies; instead, they are static. They remain connected to the jawbone with the help of periodontal fibers, which is the reason that during the surgical extraction of wisdom teeth, the dentist might need to cut into the jawbone to separate the tooth.
Maintaining Oral Hygiene
Now that you know your teeth in detail let’s discuss oral hygiene. Maintaining oral hygiene mainly revolves around preventing the buildup of plaque and cavities. Both are enemies of healthy teeth and can lead to decay and other dental issues. Read the following tips carefully.
Brush Before Going to Bed
Despite the general recommendation to brush our teeth twice a day, many people still neglect to make a habit of it. Brushing your teeth before going to bed helps get rid of harmful germs and bacteria which form plaque. Bacteria are constantly multiplying in the oral cavity, and brushing can help remove plaque accumulated during the day.
Proper Brushing Technique
Good dentists stress the importance of using a proper brushing technique. Firstly, you should always buy soft-bristled toothbrushes since hard bristles can be tough on teeth.
Second, brush your teeth using round, circular motions. Aggressive brushing can damage the gums and enamel, so always be gentle. A circular motion and at least 2 minutes of brushing time can help remove plaque.
Use Fluoride Toothpastes
Fluoride use is undisputed in maintaining oral hygiene, although the exact amount has always been a bone of contention. While some argue about its necessity in dental care, others talk about fluoride excess due to multiple sources.
We get fluoride from our community water supply, toothpaste, and mouthwashes, among other sources. Too much fluoride can cause a condition known as fluorosis, marked by the appearance of white spots on the teeth.
Even so, this shouldn’t be much cause for concern since the U.S State Department of Health and Human Services dropped the previous threshold of fluoride concentration in water supply back in 2010. Also, fluoride is the leading defense against germs that cause tooth decay.
Plaque on Tongue
It is essential not to neglect the tongue while brushing teeth. Plaque can form on the tongue as well. The reason for this is that plaque is not inorganic in nature. It forms from the sticky biofilm of bacteria, and gradually, the calculus buildup can harden over time.
Similarly, the same film of bacteria that forms plaque can also collect on the tongue and lead to bad mouth odor. Having clean white teeth isn’t enough if you have a bad mouth smell while talking to people, so always gently brush your tongue when you brush your teeth!
Flossing is essential for removing bits and pieces of food that get stuck in-between the teeth. Removing them by brush can become complicated, and plaque buildup can lead to cavities, gingivitis, or several periodontal diseases.
Consequently, it is crucial to floss so you can prevent the buildup of calculus, stimulate gums to remain healthy, and help reduce inflammation.
Hydration and Dietary Habits
Drinking plenty of water doesn’t just boost metabolism; instead, it also helps lower the pH inside your mouth. This helps ward off the adverse effects of acidic foods that allow harmful bacteria populations to flourish.
Similarly, incorporating crunchy fibrous fruits and vegetables into your diet is just as important. They are rich in natural sugars, less acidic than packaged food, and the fiber content helps strengthen our jaws.
Packaged sweets and other sugary food are unhealthy and dangerous for oral health because sugar converts to acids inside the mouth. An acidic environment in the mouth promotes bacterial growth and also erodes enamel. Enamel erosion can gradually help bacteria form cavities in our teeth. Of course, it might be challenging to cut out sugars from our diet entirely, so consider being more mindful of their effects on teeth. As far as sugary drinks such as sodas and coffee are concerned, consider using a straw so the liquid doesn’t come directly into contact with your teeth as much.
A Dentist is Your Teeth’s Best Friend
Regular dental checkups are essential for maintaining good oral hygiene. Dentists know your teeth better than you do, and they can offer you advice and guidance on how to take better care of them.
Even if you follow all excellent practices of maintaining oral hygiene, you can still suffer from plaque buildup or cavities, so it is recommended to go for a checkup at least twice a year. Furthermore, it’s not only plaque and cavities that you should be scared of; other dental issues include painful swelling, gum diseases like gingivitis, decaying teeth, chipped teeth, persistent bad breath, erosion, and sensitivity.
As a result, dentists offer a whole arsenal of modern treatments for all your dental needs for those pearly whites. Not only can they help you retain a beautiful white smile, but they also ensure your teeth remain in good health.
Regular dental checkups include getting a deep cleaning treatment (root planing and scaling) which removes the hardened plaque from our teeth. Mineralized plaque cannot be removed through brushing or flossing and requires professional removal.
Similarly, dentists also offer guidance for improved at-home oral hygiene, gum surgery, surgical extraction of teeth, root canals, and additional dental cleanings.
Additionally, newer options and treatments have also sprung up in modern times. Cosmetic dental surgeries offer veneering plans that can help restore your smile. For people who have not taken care of their teeth in the past and have managed to lose a tooth or two, there are options for new and improved dental implants which mimic the structure and function of actual teeth.
To summarize, we learned about the different types of teeth, their anatomy, some good practices for maintaining oral hygiene, and the necessity for dental checkups. We hope you know your teeth better than before and urge you to visit a dentist to get a checkup if it’s been a while!