Daily brushing and cleaning between teeth are important to your dental health because they remove plaque. Plaque is a thin, colorless, sticky film that constantly forms on your teeth.

When you eat foods containing sugars and starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids, which attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with teeth. After many such attacks, the enamel breaks down and a cavity forms.

If plaque is not removed with daily brushing, it eventually hardens into calculus (tartar). As calculus forms near the gum line, gums can become irritated and inflamed. They become swollen and may bleed. The gums begin to pull away from the teeth and form pockets that usually become infected. If gum disease is not treated promptly, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed and healthy teeth may be lost.

It may surprise you to know 50% of adults over age 18 and 75% of adults over age 35 have some degree of gum disease. It’s never too early to start fighting back. Your dental team can remove calculus from your teeth and treat gum disease that has already appeared. But daily dental care is in your hands.

Reprinted in part from the American Dental Association “Caring For Your Teeth and Gums” guide.

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