Dental Health Topics
Tooth decay happens when acids wear away the tooth’s hard surface layer, called enamel. These acids are made by a sticky film called plaque. Plaque has germs that feed on sugary foods. The process of digesting these sugars makes acids that attack tooth surfaces. Over time, tooth decay can cause holes in the tooth surface. These are called cavities. If left untreated, cavities can get bigger. They can even destroy the tooth.
If you think you have a cavity, see your dental team. Your dentist is likely to put in a filling. Fillings may stop the cavity from getting bigger.
Periodontitis is a set of inflammatory diseases affecting the periodontium, i.e., the tissues that surround and support the teeth. Periodontitis involves progressive loss of the alveolar bone around the teeth, and if left untreated, can lead to the loosening and subsequent loss of teeth. Periodontitis is caused by microorganisms that adhere to and grow on the tooth's surfaces, along with an overly aggressive immune response against these microorganisms.
In dentistry, calculus or tartar is a form of hardened dental plaque. It is caused by the continual accumulation of minerals from saliva on plaque on the teeth. Its rough surface provides an ideal medium for further plaque formation, threatening the health of the gingiva (gums).
Brushing and flossing can remove plaque from which calculus forms; however, once formed, it is too hard and firmly attached to be removed with a toothbrush. Calculus buildup can be professionally removed with ultrasonic tools and specialized sharp instruments during a dental visit.
Gingivitis ("inflammation of the gum tissue") is a non-destructive periodontal disease. The most common form of gingivitis, and the most common form of periodontal disease overall, is in response to bacterial biofilms (also called plaque) adherent to tooth surfaces, termed plaque-induced gingivitis. In the absence of treatment, gingivitis may progress to periodontitis, which is a destructive form of periodontal disease.
While in some sites or individuals gingivitis never progresses to periodontitis, data indicates that periodontitis is always preceded by gingivitis.
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