Welcome to Dental 102, your next class on brushing up on your dental knowledge! We previously studied arithmetic, history, health and fitness, and science and are now moving on to cover more topics today. Please have a seat at the front of class. We hope you brought your pencil!
In the adult mouth there are a total of 32 teeth. Focusing exclusively on the upper teeth, you’ll notice that there are four incisors located in the center front. Next to them are two canines followed by four premolars, and finally in the back there are six molars. The very last four teeth, the wisdom teeth, are sometimes removed for various reasons.
Our teeth have different shapes and sizes to fit their function. Incisors are thin and sharp like a hatchet and their function is to cut or tear food into smaller pieces. The canines grip and tear food while chewing, the premolars tear and crush food, and the molars chew, crush, and grind food. The different shapes and sizes all work together to take a larger bite of food and break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces before being passed on to the digestive tract.
A child’s mouth is a little bit different from an adult’s in that they only have 20 primary teeth. The upper arch has four incisors, followed by two canines, and lastly four molars. The lower incisors are usually the first to erupt in a baby at around six months of age. The first adult teeth to come in are the incisors at around six to seven years old.
Once adult teeth start coming in, be sure to be careful and brush the newly erupting teeth. When a child has both primary and adult teeth in his mouth, it creates a rugged terrain and can be difficult to brush. If care is not taken to keep the newly emerging adult teeth clean, problems can arise down the road such as snow capping. This is when adult teeth develop white tops like the tops of snow covered mountains and this condition is usually caused by bacteria sitting on those teeth for long periods of time without being cleaned off.
Staying in Shape
Make sure to get and keep your mouth in shape. You can do that by visiting your dentist, Dr. Dewell, every 6 months for your biannual checkup. While there, you will get your cleaning done to keep your teeth feeling great and looking even better. If there are any concerns you have that have arisen since your last checkup, let Dr. Dewell know and she will gladly help you discover what can be done.
Your day to day routine should include brushing twice per day using the proper brushing technique at home. This will keep your teeth feeling fit and ready to give you their best.
Did you know that the teeth are the strongest bone in the body? What makes them different from say, the femur in your leg, is that teeth are made of calcified tissue called dentine. The dentine is covered with enamel, which is what you see when smiling in the mirror. Bone is made from mostly the same materials as teeth but is primarily made of collagen. Collagen is a living protein in bone that allows for flexibility while under stress. The outside of bone is composed of periosteum, a substance containing osteoblasts, a specialized type of cells which help to make repairs should you fracture or break a bone. You won’t find a dentist placing a splint on a cracked tooth as teeth do not contain osteoblasts, and therefore they have no way to enable your teeth to repair themselves.
Check Your Dental Homework
Double check that you are brushing properly. Using a soft bristled toothbrush, place the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to the gums. Make short, gentle brushing motions to clean the outside facing surfaces of your teeth. The chewing surfaces of your teeth usually have grooves that tend to trap food. Be sure to clean those carefully as you do not want to leave food and bacteria in those decay-prone areas. Lastly the inner sides of the teeth facing the tongue needs brushed too. If it is too difficult to brush the front teeth on the inner side, try using up and down motions with your toothbrush as that may be easier.
Concerned that you are not getting all the surfaces of your teeth clean? Ask your dentist if she recommends any dye tablets, swabs, solutions, or floss. All of these items allow you to check how well you are brushing and show you if you have missed any plaque on your teeth. Plaque is a clear, sticky buildup that forms on your teeth that you want to brush away. The plaque disclosing products contain a harmless dye that reacts with plaque and shows areas you missed in your normal brushing routine. You can then go back and fix those areas and know to watch those areas next time.
Your Plaque Score
There is a way of tracking progress over time using what is called a plaque score. First brush as normal, then chew up the dye tablets. You will measure 6 teeth in your mouth for plaque. If there is no plaque on a tooth surface you are measuring, give yourself zero points, if 1/3 of the tooth surface is covered with plaque, give yourself one point. 1/3 to 2/3 covered with plaque gets two points, and more that 2/3 gets three points.
Check these teeth:
- -A lower central incisor on the cheek side surface.
-An upper central incisor on the tongue side surface.
-The upper right first molar on the cheek side.
-Upper left first molar on the tongue side.
-Lower right first molar on the tongue side.
-Lower left first molar on the cheek side.
Total your scores up and if you get 0-3, you are doing great! 4-7 is still good, 8-11 is fair, and 12 and above needs work. Try to measure a plaque score weekly on the same day and approximately same time so you can see how well you are doing with your brushing.