Dental care – adult Email this page to a friendShare on facebookShare on twitterBookmark & SharePrinter-friendly version
Tooth decay and gum disease are largely caused by plaque, a sticky combination of bacteria and food. Plaque begins to accumulate on teeth within 20 minutes after eating. If this plaque is not removed thoroughly each day, tooth decay will flourish. Over time, plaque will harden into tartar.

Plaque and tartar lead to a number of problems:

Cavities — holes that damage the structure of teeth
Gingivitis — swollen, inflamed, bleeding gums
Periodontitis — destruction of the ligaments and bone that support the teeth, often leading to tooth loss
Bad breath (halitosis)
Abscesses, pain, inability to use teeth
A variety of health problems outside the mouth, from preterm labor to heart disease
Healthy teeth are clean and have no cavities. Healthy gums are pink and firm. To maintain healthy teeth and gums, follow these steps:

Brush your teeth at least twice daily, preferably after every meal and at bedtime.
Floss at least once per day.
Schedule an appointment with a dentist for a routine cleaning and examination. Many dentists recommend having the teeth professionally cleaned every 6 months.
Keep dentures, retainers, and other appliances clean. This includes regular brushing and may include soaking them in a cleansing solution.