Keep your teeth healthy to smile, speak and eat

Looking after your teeth once you reach high school is extra important, because you probably have all your adult teeth. These adult teeth will help you smile, speak and eat for the rest of your life if you look after them. Below are some common tooth questions asked by young people. Of course everyone and their teeth are unique, so for more information about your situation, visit your dentist.

Why do I have to brush my teeth?

Humans have bacteria (germs) living all over our bodies and usually they don’t cause any problems. However, the bacteria on our teeth can be harmful when they build up into a sticky layer called “plaque”. You can’t see plaque well because it is a creamy colour just like your teeth.

Your dentist can tell you about products that dye the plaque on your teeth, to make it easier to see and brush away (disclosing tablets). Plaque causes tooth decay, bad breath and gum disease. Brushing your teeth removes the plaque… but it starts to grow again just after you brush! So that’s why you need to brush regularly.

Why can’t I just use mouthrinse instead of brushing?

Remember from above how plaque is a sticky layer? Well mouthrinse doesn’t work well on the plaque stuck to teeth. You need to rub the plaque away with your toothbrush. A soft toothbrush works fine and is best for your gums.

Mouthrinse just cleans up some bacteria floating about on your tongue and cheeks, it doesn’t really get to the sticky plaque on your teeth. The advertising for mouthrinse can be a little misleading.

How did I get a hole in my tooth?

Tooth decay (holes or cavities) is caused by the plaque that you haven’t brushed away and sugar you eat. The plaque germs “eat” the sugar and then make acid. It’s the acid that makes holes in your teeth.

So if you brush well and try to minimise sweet snacks and drinks, you should avoid decay. Also, fluoridated (tap) water and fluoride toothpaste toughen up your teeth so the acid can’t attack them as much.

Why should I visit the dentist if I don’t have any pain?

Tooth decay happens without pain because it’s a slow process. If a tooth starts aching it’s a very bad sign. Aches are often because a hole in the tooth has gotten really large, maybe even too big to fix.

If you see your dentist regularly they can check your teeth for very small holes that are easy to fix. But if don’t go regularly the decay will keep getting bigger and harder to repair.

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