Are our natural teeth that important?

When it comes to health and well-being we know to drink eight glasses of water each day, aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, and fill our plates with vegetables.

These are the things we continuously aim to improve, habits we work to make a part of our daily lives. We set New Years’ resolutions and sign up for 30-day challenges to make them happen.

When it comes to our oral health, however, this isn’t quite the case. We don’t rave about the latest brushing challenge over dinner with friends or hire coaches to help us floss each night. Yet when it comes to maintaining good health, your natural teeth are your best option. Here’s how (and why) to keep them as much a priority as your daily step count.

Oral health impacts overall health.

A missing tooth is more than just a hole in your smile. Dental health is intertwined with whole-body health. The bacteria that cause gum disease are linked to chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease—the very ones we work so hard to avoid through diet and exercise.

And just as you would treat an infected wound on your leg or hand to prevent it from spreading, so to should you treat an infection affecting your gums.

However, unlike an infection on your hand, when it comes to periodontitis, the symptoms aren’t always seen or even felt until the disease has become a severe infection. All the while allowing the bacteria to quietly spread deeper below the gumline, damage bone tissue, and enter the rest of the body through the bloodstream.

Periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss.

Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, affecting a whopping 50% of the U.S. population. That’s a one in two odds of having gum disease right now. But what is gum disease? And why does it lead to tooth loss?

It all starts with plaque build-up — that thin coating that builds up over your teeth throughout the day made up of food particles and bacteria. If plaque is allowed to remain on the tooth’s surface it hardens into tartar, a tough-to-remove calculus build-up. The gums, agitated by this buildup, start to pull away from the tooth’s surface in an attempt to escape the irritant, becoming red, swollen, and tender to the touch. This inflammation is known as gingivitis.

As the inflammation worsens the irritated tissue will pull so far back that pockets begin to develop below the gum line (periodontitis)—creating the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to flourish. As the bacterial infection continues to spread deeper, the connective and bone tissue supporting the teeth are broken down as your body works to fight off the infection. Teeth begin to loosen in their sockets leading to an uncomfortable and even painful bite.  

How to prevent gum disease.

Preventing gum disease is simple and can take less than 10 minutes each day. The key is to be diligent in spending this small amount of time to thoroughly remove offending bacteria.

Plaque can begin building up within four hours after brushing. This is why brushing twice a day to remove this filmy layer is so important. Each time you brush you should spend at least two minutes to properly clean your teeth. Flossing and a rinse once each day helps to ensure a deep clean by getting in between the teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach.

During routine hygiene appointments, your dental team will remove any plaque and tartar that has managed to build up between visits. Your hygienist will coach you on areas to pay careful attention to in order to keep cavities and periodontitis at bay. If you are at high risk of developing gum disease, whether due to age, genetics, or a comorbid disease, your dentist will want to closely monitor your oral health and offer advice for at-home preventative care. 

Your dentist’s recommendations aim to preserve your teeth.

It’s very easy to take our natural teeth for granted. We didn’t work for them or pull out our wallet to obtain them. However, they are the cheapest, healthiest way to maintain overall oral health.

Dental technology has gone to great lengths to replicate the natural function of teeth for a reason—they are our best option. They have an important, specialized role to play that we have yet to perfectly replicate in dental prosthetics like implants and partials.

Following your dental team’s preventative care recommendations will keep your teeth strong, clean, and healthy. At Ada Smile Place, it’s our mission to preserve your natural teeth first and foremost. Removal and replacement procedures are always Plan B when preserving the natural tooth is an option. We can work together to ensure you have a happy, healthy, and natural smile for years to come!