Our mouths may be small when compared to other parts of our body; however, there are a lot of things, processes, and systems living and occurring in that tiny opening. Human beings, more often than not, fail to care for their oral health. They also neglect to learn about the insides of their mouths. To effectively manage your oral health, you should first understand the mouth’s components, the organisms living within it, and how both affect the whole oral system. It may be weird knowledge — but these are bits of information you can pass on to your families and children.
First, let’s get to know our teeth and mouth better.
How did my teeth develop?
Some would describe teeth as somewhat alive, because they have a lifespan too. First, they erupt from the gums. Then, they grow and shed (when your baby teeth loosen and fall off) and grows again. Your teeth and its core also have nerves like a living thing. Though, they pretty much sit there in your mouth, waiting to be used for food digestion. So, if you neglect to maintain proper oral hygiene, they will soon develop diseases and infections that will surely be a huge trouble for your overall health and self-confidence.
Most people find it adorable when they see babies smile with their toothless gums. It is indeed charming, but as soon as they reach the age of six to eight months, they will start growing their first tooth. Most commonly known as baby teeth, their first teeth will fall out one at a time as soon as they reach six (6) years of age. That’s why most children who enter elementary school don’t have their two or four front teeth. These 20 baby teeth will soon be replaced with adult teeth by their teens.
By the age of 20, adults are expected to grow thirty-two (32) teeth which is composed of eight (8) incisors, four (4) canines, eight (8) premolars, and twelve 12 molars. (Insert image)
Incisors are the front teeth that are used for cutting food, while canines are the slightly pointed ones that are used for biting and speaking. Also called bicuspids, premolars are the teeth used for grinding, and chewing food. Last but not least are the molars, the flat teeth that mainly grind food.
The most painful part about all these teeth growing and falling out is the third molars. Famously called as wisdom teeth, they usually grow when someone is an adult already, which means he or she is presumably wiser than younger ones. Some do not even get to experience its painful eruption from the gums, but others go through operations to extract the wisdom tooth that is causing difficulties and problems.
What’s inside my tooth?
A tooth consists of the enamel, dentin, and pulp. The enamel is the outer surface of the tooth, which is also the strongest and most highly mineralized substance in the human body. It is unbelievably stronger than a human bone. The enamel serves a protection of the teeth against plaques and acids which humans acquire from consuming sugary and acidic food. You need to take care of your enamel because unlike bones, they are not capable of growing back again.
Underneath the enamel is the dentin. It is a layer of sensitive tissues that is meant to protect the pulp of a tooth. Once the dentin is left exposed due to enamel erosion and tooth decay, people experience sharp, shooting pain because all the nerves in your tooth is within it. This pain is sometimes intolerable for other people, and this leads to tooth extraction and tooth loss.
At the centre of your teeth is the pulp – a soft tissue that contains blood vessels and nerve tissues. The pulp has the root canals and pulp chamber. When the cavity has reached the pulp, it becomes inflamed which causes people to experience severe pain. If left untreated, some are required to undergo root canal procedures.
What else is inside my mouth?
Aside from the teeth, we also have the tementum, gums, periodontal ligament, tongue, uvula, frenulum linguae, and salivary glands. All are essential parts of the mouth and each has a contribution in the mouth’s purpose – digestion.
What grips the teeth and holds it in place in the gums is the tementum, while what holds the teeth to the upper and lower jaws is the periodontal ligament. From the name itself, the salivary glands produce saliva which aids in the process of breaking down food and also helps in maintaining the cleanliness of the mouth.
An essential part that is most often ignored when it comes to oral hygiene is the tongue. It moves food from your mouth to other parts of the digestive system. And of course, people have the sense of taste, and the capability to speak because of their tongue. Uvula is also a part of your mouth that is believed to help people have the ability to speak.
The mouth is a structure that needs to be taken care of diligently. Once a piece of that structure gets broken or lost, the whole structure will not be able to function the same way again.
So, you’re saying I have bacteria in my teeth and mouth. How?
Most people would probably find it disgusting if they learn there are more or less six billion bacteria in a human’s mouth. By the way, that is almost the same number as the world’s population — they’re that many. Called human oral microbiome, the mouth’s inner elements are mostly composed of bacteria. You should know that good and bad bacteria exist on Earth, and both can be found living in the mouth’s interiors.
In this universe, many people believe there is good and bad in everything. These oral bacteria do not only live inside our mouths — some feed in it which are most often bad, while some do good by keeping our mouth and its components clean. These billions of bacteria include helpful bacteria that aid in food digestion, and pathogenic bacteria that are the culprits to the decay and loss of tooth, and the inflammation of gums.
Known as Streptococcus mutans, these microorganisms are tasked to break down sugar which then produces a by-product that destroys the tooth enamel. Common diseases caused by this microbe are tooth decay, bad breath, gum disease, and thrombosis. Another terrible organism is Porphyromonas gingivalis. It starts to appear in the mouth when someone has Periodontitis, a gum infection that is usually a result of poor oral hygiene. Without prevention and treatment, it will eventually destroy the soft tissue and alveolar bone that acts as a support for your tooth. It will then cause your teeth to become loose and further lead to tooth loss.
That’s enough talk about the destroyers, and let’s talk about the good ones too. Probiotics, which are helpful microorganisms, aids in lowering your risk to oral diseases and problems. They also proven to kill harmful bacteria by reducing the amount of plaque on your teeth. Other bacteria are neither good nor bad — they just stay in your mouth to live in it.
How do I avoid bad bacteria in my teeth?
Brush and floss your teeth thoroughly and gently.
Dentists advise brushing your teeth for three minutes with a soft-bristled brush. It is recommended to replace the brush with a new one every three months, and if you recently got sick with a disease or a flu. Proper brush sanitation is necessary. Once your toothbrush looks like it has been used thousands of times, it is probably a good time to change it.
While brushing your teeth, dental hygienists recommend that you should position the bristles of your toothbrush at a slight angle to the teeth’s surface, and gently brush your teeth in small strokes. The common side-to-side motion of brushing the teeth is wrong because it goes against the direction of your teeth’s enamel rods. Thus, it can cause the weakening and destruction of these rods, and result in enamel erosion.
Even though there is no proof of its effectiveness yet, flossing is still a good oral hygiene activity that helps remove food remains and debris from between their teeth.
Eat healthy food.
As mentioned above, bad bacteria live inside your mouth because of the constant consumption of sweets and carbohydrates. Limit your simple carbohydrate intake and avoid eating food that contains sugar and white flour. Plaque is produced by this kind of bacteria and is the primary culprit of the majority of all oral and dental diseases. The acid that these bacteria emit also contribute to tooth decay and tooth loss.
Consuming acidic foods such as citrus fruits and citrus-flavored drinks can also cause dental damage like tooth decay and enamel erosion. If you are going to indulge in them, make sure to rinse your mouth with water to remove acid residues in your teeth. Brushing your teeth immediately after eating this type of food is a huge no-no, and this will only lead to tooth erosion.
Don’t forget to hydrate.
Drinking water has a lot of benefits. One of those benefits is the prevention of tooth erosion. Dry mouth and less saliva cause the teeth to be more exposed in acids which contribute to the decay and erosion of tooth. Just think that when you drink lots of water in a day, your body will appreciate it.
Visit your dentist regularly.
It is with utmost importance that you seek the help of a professional when you have dental and oral problems. Do not be anxious when you visit a dentist, he or she is just going to check if your teeth are healthy and if some of it needs extra care. It does not always end up with tooth extractions and surgeries.
Even the most obsessed with dental care still need to consult dentists. A bit of plaque can harden and turn into tartar, which is impossible to safely remove at home. The teeth need extra care from time to time. It is easy to keep your mouth and teeth healthy if you are diligent in cleaning your teeth regularly. Do not wait for painful tooth problems before consulting a dental specialist. The saying, prevention is better than cure, works for dental issues too.
Always remember to ask your dentist for advice on managing your dental hygiene. You can ask for product recommendations and tips on how to effectively lessen plaque on your teeth. We will always be happy to answer any of your questions.