6 Things That You Didn’t Know about Your Teeth

Impress your dentist with your knowledge of the weird and wonderful world of teeth. Find out everything you ever wanted to know about dental health.  

dental facts

Image from Kenneth Lu on Flickr

We all think that we are very familiar with our teeth. We know what they’re made out of and we know what kind of things cause them pain and lead to damage. We all know how our teeth are supposed to look and feel in our mouths. Yet, the world of dental health remains more of a mystery than you might think. There is certainly still lots of stuff about our teeth and about dental science that has the power to dazzle and intrigue.  

For example, did you know that teeth actually have an inbuilt regeneration and repair mechanism? And that they can fix the destruction wreaked by plaque and nasty bacteria? But that, ultimately, this repair process is too slow to keep up with our intensely sugary diets or rescue us from cavities, without a helping hand from the dentist?

Have you heard about the scientists who have discovered the secret to growing organic teeth from human stem cells? Or the London based researchers who have come up with a way to carry out fillings without the need for a dental drill? You would be amazed at how innovative and exciting the world of dentistry is right now.

We are on the cusp on some truly major breakthroughs and they promise to revolutionise the way that we care for our teeth. So, it is time to dive head first into the world of our mouths and learn all about the mysterious that exist there. This guide to the most interesting things that you probably didn’t know about your teeth is sure to teach you something new.

  1. Saliva is Your Secret Weapon

For most people, saliva is nothing to be too concerned about it. It shows up, it does its job, and it never lets us down. It is not that we don’t think it’s important, we just have a very basic perception of it. Whatever you prefer to call it – spit, drool, slaver, or slobber – it is fair to say that it has very little impact on our lives. That is, unless we start to produce less of it for some reason or we struggle with underlying health problems that make producing saliva difficult.  

So, you might be surprised to learn that saliva is actually the first line of defense when it comes to dental health. It contains mild antibacterial properties and, when plaque comes along and attaches itself to your teeth, it is the saliva that works to remove and wash it away. Essentially, it counters the acidic effects of sugar, so it is an essential part of a healthy mouth.

This is made very clear when people are prescribed medications by their doctor. A huge amount of these drugs cause dry mouth, as a side effect, and this can lead to degeneration of the gums and teeth. The only way to counteract this is to drink plenty of water and suck on sugar free mints or candy if the mouth feels particularly parched and raspy.

As we know, drinking plenty of fresh, clean water is a vital part of staying healthy for everybody, no matter how old you are or what condition your teeth may be in. The recommended daily amount is 6-8 glasses, without additives, juice concentrates, or other ingredients. Drinking plenty of water keeps the whole body healthy, not just the mouth.

  1. The Way You Eat Could Be Harmful

We are used to being told what to eat and what to avoid throughout the day, if we want to keep our teeth healthy and strong. For example, it should be obvious that too many sugary snacks is a good choice. While fresh fruit juices are much healthier than carbonated drinks, they contain a lot of naturally occurring sugars, so should be drunk at mealtimes only.

What you may not be used to is the idea that healthy snacking is about more than just what you choose to put into your mouth. It is about how you eat it too. Over the last few years, dental scientists have started to build up a clearer picture of how our teeth develop cavities and begin to decay. They now know that frequent snacking and sipping, even in small quantities, can be much more harmful than eating a few a large meals.

The argument is that the more often you eat, the more individual ‘acid attacks’ your teeth will have to fight off. So, while sitting down to eat a big meal will produce acid, it will only do so one time. On the other hand, if you spend all day at work or college nibbling on potato chips and candy and guzzling soda, you are attacking your teeth time and time again. This is precisely why it is always best to save fizzy drinks, especially, for enjoying with meals.

As the plaque in the mouth multiples, it attaches itself to the surface of teeth. Once there, it produces an acid substance that eats away at the tooth enamel. After a while (if too many sugary drinks and snacks are enjoyed too often), the tooth starts to develop soft spots. Given enough time, these sports turn into actual holes and the tooth begins to decay. If left untreated, this condition has the potential to cause root infections and degenerative tooth loss.

  1. Fluoride is a Source of Great Debate

Once again, fluoride is just one of those things that people take for granted. We know that it is in our toothpaste and in our water and we know that it makes teeth shiny. But, did you know that fluoride has been at the centre of a fierce debate for many decades now? Thus far, no clear and definitive evidence has been produced to quash the debate, so we are forced to resort to conjecture and common sense.

There are some people who believe that fluoride is dangerous for the health. There have been endless arguments over whether it should be reduced or removed from the water supply altogether. It is certainly true that overconsumption can result in sickness. Yet, this is also true of pretty much anything that a person can ingest. For instance, it is entirely possible to die from drinking too much water.  

The point is that, while fluoride may be toxic in high doses there is no evidence to suggest that cleaning our teeth with it is harmful. It is recommended, however, that young children only be given a pea sized amount to brush their teeth with. For toddlers and infants, a smear of toothpaste is more than enough.

In some rare cases, an overabundance of fluoride in drinking water can lead to a condition called fluorosis. This is not dangerous and involves only cosmetic symptoms (mainly white spots on the teeth). You are very unlikely to contract this condition; not unless it is clear that your water supply contains a risky amount of fluoride.

  1. Rinsing After Brushing is Unnecessary

According to medical advice, it is best not to swallow toothpaste so that you do not ingest too much fluoride. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving a small amount of toothpaste in your mouth, after you have brushed and spit. It has become customary for us to thoroughly rinse our mouths out after brushing, but this actually washes away all of the good stuff that is designed to strengthen and restore your teeth.

The longer the fluoride in the toothpaste is allowed to remain in contact with your teeth, the more effective it will be at fighting plaque and tooth decay. So, do not be afraid to forgo the rinse and head off to bed with a super minty mouth. Your teeth will thank you for it in the morning when they still feel fresh and shiny.

It is quite common for dentists to prescribe fluoride treatments for at risk patients. This usually involves apply a fluoride heavy gel, paste, or varnish and then letting it interact with the tooth enamel for around half an hour. This kind of treatment can be very effective when it comes to warding of the early signs of decay and gum recession. It is a trick often used by dentists to give patients a ‘second chance’ at fighting off cavities.  

If you are interested in fluoride treatments and think that they might benefit you, do not be afraid to ask your dentist about them. They will be able to advise you on whether or not such an approach is necessary to protect your teeth. They might also prescribe you a specially designed fluoride toothpaste, rather than scheduling you in for formal treatments.

  1. Your Oral Health Represents Your Physical Health

In many ways, this is the single most important fact of all. If you can remember this one, you will always be reminded of how vital a good dental health routine can be. It might sound strange to think of the mouth as being a warning area for the rest of the body, but it is true. Tooth decay, persistent infections, and other dental health problems can lead to serious ailments in other parts of the body.

For instance, heart disease, strokes, and diabetes – yes, it really is that serious. Your oral health is an integral part of your overall physical wellbeing, so take care of your teeth and they will take care of you. While there are lots of mysterious still to be solved about why these connections exist, doctors, dentists, and medical scientists are very clear on the belief that good dental health equals good health overall.

To maintain oral and dental health, brush twice a day, floss regularly, and keep up with regular dentist appointments. You cannot avoid going to the dentist for check-ups and still consider your routine extensive enough. The thing about dental specialists is that they know how to look for signs of damage that you would otherwise miss completely. So, do not fool yourself into thinking that you can substitute check-ups for brushing and flossing – you need both.

  1. You May Be Allergic to Your Toothpaste

If you experience peeling skin on the inside of your cheeks – you can feel for this with your tongue or clean fingers – you could be allergic to the ingredients in your toothpaste. This is a surprisingly common ailment, but few people know about it. While it does not usually involve a lot of pain or discomfort (there may be a slight amount of tenderness), it is still important to switch to an alternative if you believe that you are particularly sensitive.

The peeling in the mouth is called ‘mucosal sloughing’ and it occurs because harsh ingredients in the toothpaste are, literally, burning the skin away. Even if you cannot feel it, this is clearly not a healthy response from your mouth. It is trying to tell you that a change must be made. The good news is that there are plenty of specially designed toothpastes out there for people with allergies and sensitivities.

If you are not sure whether you are one of them, ask your dentist for advice the next time that you head to the surgery for a check-up. Your specialist will be able to take a quick peek and confirm whether or not there has been an allergic reaction. Plus, they will also be able to point you in the direction of the best alternative toothpaste products. This is not any kind of condition to worry about, so just follow the recommendations and you will be fine.  

Related Articles