Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mouth Maintenance

Different animals have very different ways of producing and maintaining their teeth. Sharks grow a limitless supply and never need to see a dentist. Elephants get a lifetime allotment of just 24 teeth and use no more than six at a time. As an elephant grinds its way through its tough, plant-based diet, its front teeth wear down and eventually fall out, making room for its back teeth to move forward as replacements. When an old elephant goes through all of its teeth, it starves to death.

Humans aren’t quite as bad off—if we lose our limited set of 32 teeth, we can survive on protein shakes and peach ice cream. But if you want to bite your way through chocolate bars and ciabatta bread well into your nineties, you need to make sure your dental hardware doesn’t end up as used and abused as a mouthful of elephant teeth.

Here’s what you need to know to maintain healthy teeth:

• Brushing. It’s not necessary (or helpful) to attack your teeth with sandblasting force. Instead, a gentle 3- to 4-minute brushing does the trick. (Most people think they brush even longer, but the average brushing session lasts just 60 seconds.) Twice a day is the official tooth-brushing recommendation, but dentists really want you to clean your teeth after every meal. Modern research suggests you wait 20 minutes after a meal before you brush. Immediate brushing attacks your teeth when they’re at their softest—weakened by the acids in your food.

• Flossing. Studies suggest that proper flossing might do more for your teeth than brushing. Flossing once a day won’t bankrupt your dentist, but it will remove tiny particles of food between your teeth and reduce the sticky buildup of plaque. To get the most out of flossing, however, you need impeccable technique. Particularly important is flossing gently under your gumline, as shown in the picture below. For a step-bystep walkthrough, point your Web browser to http://tinyurl.com/cltjjy. Too pressed for time to clean your teeth with a strip of floss? As sardonic dentists often remark, you need to floss only the teeth you want to keep.

• Whitening. Stained, discolored teeth get little love. But recently, tooth fashion has switched from cloud white to glistening-Chiclets white, and the effect can be as glaringly unnatural as a nose job on Cyrano de Bergerac. If you really want a brighter shade of white, skip whitening toothpastes—most of them simply include abrasives that can grind away some surface marks. However, home whitening kits and custom dental appliances can produce better results, so talk to your dentist about what sort of whitening product would be most effective for you. This is particularly important if you’ve had any serious dental work.

• Gum disease. The real danger of poor dental hygiene isn’t cavities (which are usually easy to patch), but gum disease. Gum disease occurs when the same bacteria that attack your teeth slip under your gumline, damaging your gums (in which case it’s called gingivitis) or into your teeth’s supporting tissues and bone (in which case it’s called periodontitis). The former can make your gums swell and bleed, and can trigger bad breath. The latter can destabilize your teeth and lead to a set of dentures.

• Fluoride. Conspiracy theorists aside, fluoride plays an important role in strengthening tooth enamel, especially early in life. Countless studies have nearly always agreed about fluoride’s cavity-preventive abilities and its lack of side effects, which is why it’s so often included in municipal water supplies or (in many non–English-speaking countries) added to table salt. The only catch is that too much fluoride can stain the teeth of young children, but that won’t happen unless they abuse fluoridated mouthwashes or eat entire tubes of toothpaste. (Incidentally, in the 1950s, far-right activists opposed fluoridation and vaccination, believing both were part of a shadowy conspiracy to impose a communist regime on America. So consider yourself forewarned.)

There’s a more controversial ingredient in some toothpastes: triclosan, an antibiotic that coats the teeth. Studies confirm that it’s an effective tool against the bacterial marauders that live in your mouth and cause plaque. However, some health experts worry that it could lead to bacterial resistance —in other words, the presence of triclosan could encourage harmful bacteria to evolve into a super-species that’s immune to the usual antibiotic weaponry. If you’re looking to give your teeth an antibiotic boost—or if you just want to avoid this high-powered ingredient—check the label. Colgate Total is the best-known toothpaste to include triclosan.

Source of Information : Oreilly - Your Body Missing Manual

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