Health Tip: Take Care of Your Teeth

-- If you've been diagnosed with periodontal disease, you're not alone. Some 80 percent of American adults currently have some form of the gum disease, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Our mouths are full of bacteria, which along with mucus and food particles form a sticky, colorless "plaque" on teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque.

Plaque that is not removed can harden and form bacteria-laden "tartar." The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria cause inflammation of the gums, which is known as gingivitis.

When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to periodontitis, characterized by the gums pulling away from the teeth and forming infected pockets. Bacterial toxins and the body's enzymes fighting the infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place.

If periodontitis isn't treated, the bones, gums and connective tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. At that point, the teeth may have to be removed.

Posted: February 2009


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