Caring For Your Teeth

How often should I brush my teeth?

Brush your teeth twice a day. You also should brush your tongue and the roof of your mouth to remove bacteria lingering there. This will help get rid of bad breath too!

How often should I floss and why?

Floss between your teeth once a day. Flossing is important to good dental health because it removes pieces of food that get stuck between your teeth and under your gums, reaching places your toothbrush can't.

What foods should I eat to help keep my teeth healthy?

Eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups (grains, dairy, fruits, vegetables and meats). Avoid sugary snacks, such as candy, cookies and chips and sugary beverages such as soda, sports drink and juice. Learn more about proper nutrition.

Is soda bad for me?

Soda is high in sugar. Even “sugar free” or diet soda contains acid that is bad for your teeth. When you are thirsty, choose water or milk.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that strengthens tooth enamel, protecting teeth from decay. When combined with proper oral care (brushing, flossing and regular dental check-ups), fluoride greatly reduces dental decay. Dentists often recommend fluoride treatments or supplements when the community’s water supply is not fluoridated.

Why should I wear a mouthguard while playing sports?

Mouthguards are required for high-contact sports like football, hockey and boxing. However, dentists strongly recommend them for any sport where contact or collision may occur, such as basketball, soccer and wrestling. A properly fitted mouthguard can prevent most sports-related tooth and mouth injuries and may even prevent concussions by acting like a shock absorber between upper and lower teeth.

Inside Your Mouth

How many teeth do I have?

Most children have all 20 baby teeth by age three. Permanent teeth push primary teeth out of the way, causing them to fall out. By about age 14, all primary teeth have been replaced by 28 permanent teeth. Learn more about your teeth.

The teeth in my mouth are different shapes and sizes. What are the different types?

Your mouth consists of incisors, canines, premolars and molars. Learn what each type is used for.

What's inside a tooth?

Enamel protects the inside of the tooth by acting as a barricade. Dentin is located underneath enamel to protect the pulp and is a substance similar to bone. Pulp contains each tooth’s nerve endings and the blood vessels that bring nutrients to the tooth. View a diagram.

What are gums?

Gums are the pink part above your upper teeth and below your bottom teeth. They are the tissue that surrounds your teeth.

Going to the Dentist

How often should I visit the dentist?

You should visit the dentist every six months. The dentist can remove plaque and tartar from the gumline. You may have X-rays taken which can uncover hidden problems and check developing teeth.

What if I’m afraid of visiting the dentist?

Don’t be scared. The dentist is a friendly doctor that will help keep your teeth and gums healthy. Try picturing the dentist chair as your very own space shuttle on a secret mission to attack plaque. If you are still scared, talk to your parents and your dentist about any questions you have about going to the dentist.

Cavities and Plaque

What is a cavity?

A cavity is a hole in your tooth that is caused by tooth decay.

What is plaque and why is it harmful?

Plaque is the sticky film of bacteria that collects on the teeth and between the teeth. It develops when foods containing sugars and starches are left on teeth. The bacteria produces acids which destroy tooth enamel and causes tooth decay. Brushing and flossing regularly removes plaque and fights decay.

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a milder form of gum disease (also called periodontal disease). If plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist. When tartar settles along the gumline, the gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets, allowing bacteria to attack teeth roots. To help prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease, remember to brush twice a day, floss at least once a day, eat nutritious foods and visit the dentist regularly (at least twice a year).

Braces and Sealants

Why would I need braces and how do they work?

Braces help to straighten teeth that are crooked by putting constant pressure on your teeth. If your dentist says you have an overbite, it means your upper jar is bigger than your lower jaw. If your lower jaw is bigger, your dentist calls this an underbite.

The wires on braces help to move your teeth, while the rubber bands help fix the alignment of your teeth (how your teeth line up).

What are the different types of braces?

There are a variety of different types of braces, including clear braces, braces the same color as your teeth or braces that go behind your teeth. The rubber bands used with braces come in a wide variety of colors, so choose your favorite color or even change colors frequently.

I wear braces. Do I need to avoid certain foods?

If you wear braces, avoid eating foods that are hard or sticky, like popcorn, hard or sticky candy and gum.

What is a dental sealant?

A dental sealant is a plastic material that a dentist may apply to one or more teeth to help prevent cavities.