Major Funding The Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation

Teeth: Top 10 Questions

February 2008

Thanks to Dr. Dustin Weitz, Moscow dentist, and Dr. Stephen Bruce, Boise dentist for the answers.

1: Why should we floss our teeth every day?

Flossing is important for several reasons. People can get different types of problems with their teeth, and one would be cavities. You can have gum problems, and flossing will get into places where your toothbrush just can't reach. So it helps clean your teeth to help you from having problems with your gums, which are around your teeth. (From Emma in Mrs. Fryer's class at Clearwater Valley Elementary)

2: Are teeth a bone?

Technically they are not a bone; they are actually harder than a bone. They're made up of enamel and dentin, and inside is the pulp where the nerves and blood vessels are. Those are necessary when that tooth is growing, and that's where you have this sensation of hot and cold or pain in a tooth. (From Sydney in Mrs. Woodall's class at Hayden Meadows Elementary School)

3: How do you lose teeth?

When you lose one of your baby teeth what's actually happening is you'll have a permanent tooth that is growing underneath the primary tooth (the baby tooth). The loosening is a process where the root of the baby tooth actually dissolves and then it will fall out on its own. (From Savannah in Mrs. Fryer's class at Clearwater Valley Elementary School)

4: How does plaque make your teeth yellow?

Plaque will actually build up on the surface of your tooth and can make a tooth look yellow. After you have that brushed off or cleaned off, your tooth actually won't be yellow underneath unless that plaque has sat on there for a long time. Plaque hardens and becomes tartar. And if you have that on your tooth, you should come in to a dentist and do a really good cleaning where we can get that off so it doesn't become a major problem. There are little pits and pores and grooves in your teeth, and things that people eat can sometimes cause stain to get into those areas and darken a person's tooth. (From Seyara in Mrs. Hooper's class at Gooding Elementary School)

5: What is a root canal?

When people talk about root canals typically what they're talking about is when the dentist has to go inside that tooth because either that tooth broke so severely it went into the pulp, or decay went into the pulp, or sometimes teeth just die. In those situations we have to make a hole through the top of the tooth, go into it, and clean out all of that tissue out of the canals where the nerves and blood vessels are. Then we put a soft filling material in there so they can keep that tooth in the mouth even though it is technically dead. (From Hannah in Mrs. Hunt's class at Cynthia Mann Elementary)

6: How much candy does it take to rot out your teeth?

It depends on how well you're taking care of your teeth. If a person does eat candy that has a lot of sugar in it, and if you leave it on for a long time, then you're going to have problems with that turning into the acid that can dissolve a person's tooth. But if you brush your teeth with toothpaste very soon after you've eaten candy, the toothpaste will help clean that off and also strengthen your tooth. (From Chase in Mrs. Hooper's class at Gooding Elementary School)

7: What in toothpaste helps your teeth?

Well, most of all there's an abrasive in there; very, very small pumice particles. It has an abrasive quality that helps to clean off the teeth, just like an abrasive cleaner that you would use on the floor. Most toothpaste also has fluoride, and fluoride is a good thing to have on teeth, because the fluoride and the bacteria that causes tooth decay don't get along very well. (From Henry at McDonald Elementary in Moscow)

8: What connects your teeth to your jaw?

The tooth sits in the bone, but then the gum tissue that you see around it connects to something that they call a ligament, like little fibers that hold the tooth into your jaw. That's one of the things that as a person gets older, if they're having plaque that gets built up in between their teeth, it can actually get down into that ligament and cause a problem that they call gum disease - that's where bacteria gets in between the jaw bone and the tooth, and that's also one of the reasons we like to get in there with floss, because the floss will get to that area where your toothbrush can't reach. (From Raely in Mrs. Hooper's class at Gooding Elementary School)

9: My dad smokes. Is smoking bad for your teeth?

That's a great question. Smoking can be very hard on a person's teeth because it can really dry a person's mouth out - everybody has saliva in their mouth, that's what makes your teeth wet. When the mouth dries out it actually irritates your gums, so you can get cavities a lot easier when you smoke. So actually, smoking cigarettes can be pretty hard on a person's teeth. A person is also more prone to oral cancer if they're a smoker. (From William in Mrs. Olson's class at Oregon Train Elementary School in Twin Falls)

10: What are the causes of tooth decay?

When we eat, a lot of the foods we eat have sugars in the food. Also, everybody has bacteria in their mouth, which are like little microscopic bugs. Those bacteria take that sugar and use it for food like we do our regular food, but when they break it down that actually makes acids. Acids dissolve the minerals out of your teeth, and that's what causes the cavity. (From Ryana in Mr. Franklin's class at Meridian Elementary School)

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