Health Topics

Mouth and teeth

Dental Health
National Library of Medicine
Oral Health

It's important to take care of your mouth and teeth starting in childhood. If you don't, you could have problems with your teeth and gums - like cavities or even tooth loss.

Here's how to keep your mouth and teeth healthy:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Clean between your teeth every day with floss or another type of between-the-teeth cleaner
  • Snack smart - limit sugary snacks
  • Don't smoke or chew tobacco
  • See your dentist or oral health professional regularly

NIH: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research


Oral Health
Oral Hygiene
Dental Care
Mouth and Teeth
Wellness and Lifestyle
It's important to take care of your mouth and teeth starting in childhood. If you don't, you could have problems with your teeth and gums - like cavities or ...
Child Dental Health
National Library of Medicine
Dental Health, Child
Dental Sealants
Oral Health, Child

Healthy teeth are important to your child's overall health. From the time your child is born, there are things you can do to promote healthy teeth and prevent cavities. For babies, you should clean teeth with a soft, clean cloth or baby's toothbrush. Avoid putting the baby to bed with a bottle and check teeth regularly for spots or stains.

For all children, you should

  • Start using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste when they are two years old. You might start sooner, if a dentist or doctor suggests it.
  • Provide healthy foods and limit sweet snacks and drinks
  • Schedule regular dental check-ups

Forming good habits at a young age can help your child have healthy teeth for life.

NIH: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research


Dental Care for Children
Children and Teenagers
Mouth and Teeth
Healthy teeth are important to your child's overall health. From the time your child is born, there are things you can do to promote healthy teeth and prevent ...
Mouth Disorders
National Library of Medicine

Your mouth is one of the most important parts of your body. It has many different functions. It allows you to

  • Take in food and drink
  • Breathe in air
  • Start digestion, with your teeth chewing the food you eat and your salivary glands releasing saliva to help break down the food
  • Speak and sing
  • Show emotion, by smiling or pouting

Any problem that affects your mouth can make it hard to eat, drink, or even smile. Some common mouth problems include

  • Cold sores - painful sores on the lips and around the mouth, caused by a virus
  • Canker sores - painful sores in the mouth, caused by bacteria or viruses
  • Thrush - a yeast infection that causes white patches in your mouth
  • Leukoplakia - white patches of excess cell growth on the cheeks, gums or tongue, common in smokers
  • Dry mouth - a lack of enough saliva, caused by some medicines and certain diseases
  • Gum or tooth problems
  • Bad breath

Treatment for mouth disorders varies, depending on the problem. If a mouth problem is caused by some other disease, treating that disease can help. It is also important to keep your mouth clean and healthy by brushing, flossing, and not using tobacco.


Mouth Diseases
Ear, Nose and Throat
Mouth and Teeth
Your mouth is one of the most important parts of your body. It has many different functions. It allows you to Take in food and drink Breathe in air Start ...
Tooth Disorders
National Library of Medicine
Bruxism
Impacted Tooth
Root Canal
Teeth
What are teeth?

Your teeth are made of a hard, bonelike material. There are four parts:

  • Enamel, your tooth's hard surface
  • Dentin, the hard yellow part under the enamel
  • Cementum, the hard tissue that covers the root and keeps your teeth in place
  • Pulp, the soft connective tissue in the center of your tooth. It contains nerves and blood vessels.

You need your teeth for many activities that you may take for granted. These include eating, speaking and even smiling.

What are tooth disorders?

There are many different problems that can affect your teeth, including

  • Tooth decay - damage to a tooth's surface, which can lead to cavities
  • Abscess - a pocket of pus, caused by a tooth infection
  • Impacted tooth - a tooth did not erupt (break through the gum) when it should have. It is usually wisdom teeth that are impacted, but it can sometimes happen to other teeth.
  • Misaligned teeth (malocclusion)
  • Tooth injuries such as broken or chipped teeth
What causes tooth disorders?

The causes of tooth disorders varies, depending on the problem. Sometimes the cause is not taking good care of your teeth. In other cases, you may have been born with the problem or the cause is an accident.

What are the symptoms of tooth disorders?

The symptoms can vary, depending on the problem. Some of the more common symptoms include

  • Abnormal color or shape of the tooth
  • Tooth pain
  • Worn-down teeth
How are tooth disorders diagnosed?

Your dentist will ask about your symptoms, look at your teeth, and probe them with dental instruments. In some cases, you may need dental x-rays.

What are the treatments for tooth disorders?

The treatment will depend on the problem. Some common treatments are

  • Fillings for cavities
  • Root canals for cavities or infections that affect the pulp (inside of the tooth)
  • Extractions (pulling teeth) for teeth that are impacted and causing problems or are too damaged to be fixed. You may also have a tooth or teeth pulled because of overcrowding in your mouth.
Can tooth disorders be prevented?

The main thing that you can do to prevent tooth disorders is to take good care of your teeth:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Clean between your teeth every day with floss or another type of between-the-teeth cleaner
  • Limit sugary snacks and drinks
  • Don't smoke or chew tobacco
  • See your dentist or oral health professional regularly

Tooth Diseases
Mouth and Teeth
... fixed. You may also have a tooth or teeth pulled because of overcrowding in your mouth. Can tooth disorders be prevented? The main thing that you ...
Oral Cancer
National Library of Medicine
Mouth Cancer
Tongue Cancer

Oral cancer can form in any part of the mouth. Most oral cancers begin in the flat cells that cover the surfaces of your mouth, tongue, and lips. Anyone can get oral cancer, but the risk is higher if you are male, use tobacco, drink lots of alcohol, have HPV, or have a history of head or neck cancer. Frequent sun exposure is also a risk factor for lip cancer.

Symptoms of oral cancer include

  • White or red patches in your mouth
  • A mouth sore that won't heal
  • Bleeding in your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Problems or pain with swallowing
  • A lump in your neck
  • An earache

Tests to diagnose oral cancer include a physical exam, endoscopy, biopsy, and imaging tests. Oral cancer treatments may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Some patients have a combination of treatments.

NIH: National Cancer Institute


Mouth Neoplasms
Cancers
Mouth and Teeth
... won't heal Bleeding in your mouth Loose teeth Problems or pain with ... patients have a combination of treatments. NIH: National Cancer Institute
Anatomy
National Library of Medicine

Anatomy is the science that studies the structure of the body. On this page, you'll find links to descriptions and pictures of the human body's parts and organ systems from head to toe.


Anatomy
Digestive System
Blood, Heart and Circulation
Eyes and Vision
Bones, Joints and Muscles
Kidneys and Urinary System
Brain and Nerves
Lungs and Breathing
Ear, Nose and Throat
Mouth and Teeth
Skin, Hair and Nails
Pregnancy and Reproduction
Immune System
Endocrine System
Male Reproductive System
Anatomy is the science that studies the structure of the body. On this page, you'll find links to descriptions and pictures of the human body's parts and organ ...
Bad Breath
National Library of Medicine
Breath Odor
Halitosis

There are many reasons why you might have bad breath. You can get it if you don't brush and floss regularly. Bacteria that build up in your mouth and between your teeth produce the bad odor. Other problems in your mouth, such as gum disease, dry mouth, or cavities, may also cause it. Sinusitis or problems with your nose may be to blame. You can also have bad breath if you eat some foods, like raw onions, garlic, or cabbage. And of course smoking causes its own bad smell. Some diseases and medicines can cause a specific breath odor.

Having good dental habits, like brushing and flossing regularly, help fight bad breath. Mouthwashes, mints or chewing gum may make your breath fresher. If you have a disease that causes the bad breath, treating the disease may help give you fresher breath.


Halitosis
Mouth and Teeth
Symptoms
... floss regularly. Bacteria that build up in your mouth and between your teeth produce the bad odor. Other problems in your mouth, such as gum disease, dry mouth, or cavities, ...
Dentures
National Library of Medicine
Dental Implants
False Teeth

Dentures are false teeth made to replace teeth you have lost. They can be complete or partial. Complete dentures cover your entire upper or lower jaw. Partials replace one or a few teeth.

Dentures may feel strange at first. Speaking and eating may feel different. Be careful when wearing dentures because they may make it harder for you to feel hot foods and liquids. Also, you may not notice biting on a bone from your food.

In the beginning, your dentist may want to see you often to make sure the dentures fit. Over time, your mouth will change and you may need to have your dentures adjusted or replaced. Be sure to let your dentist handle these adjustments.

If your dentures move too much in your mouth, denture adhesive may help. In some cases, your dentist may suggest that you switch to dental implants. They are permanent, and they replace both the roots and teeth.

Keep your dentures clean and free from food that can cause stains, bad breath, or swollen gums. Brush them every day with a denture care product. Take your dentures out of your mouth at night, and put them in water or a denture-cleansing liquid.

NIH: National Institute on Aging


Dentures
Mouth and Teeth
... care product. Take your dentures out of your mouth at night, and put them in water or a denture-cleansing liquid. NIH: National Institute on Aging
Smokeless Tobacco
National Library of Medicine
Chewing Tobacco
Dip
Oral Tobacco
Snuff
Spit Tobacco
Tobacco, Smokeless

Many people who chew tobacco or dip snuff think it's safer than smoking. But you don't have to smoke tobacco for it to be dangerous. Chewing or dipping carries risks like

  • Cancer of the mouth
  • Decay of exposed tooth roots
  • Pulling away of the gums from the teeth
  • White patches or red sores in the mouth that can turn to cancer

Recent research shows the dangers of smokeless tobacco may go beyond the mouth. It might also play a role in other cancers, heart disease and stroke.

Smokeless tobacco contains more nicotine than cigarettes. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug that makes it hard to stop using tobacco once you start. Having a quit date and a quitting plan can help you stop successfully.

NIH: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research


Tobacco, Smokeless
Substance Abuse Problems
Mouth and Teeth
... help you stop successfully. NIH: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
Tooth Decay
National Library of Medicine
Cavities
Dental Caries
Dental Sealants
Plaque, Dental
What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is damage to a tooth's surface, or enamel. It happens when bacteria in your mouth make acids that attack the enamel. Tooth decay can lead to cavities (dental caries), which are holes in your teeth. If tooth decay is not treated, it can cause pain, infection, and even tooth loss.

What causes tooth decay?

Our mouths are full of bacteria. Some bacteria are helpful. But some can be harmful, including the ones that play a role in tooth decay. These bacteria combine with food to form a soft, sticky film called plaque. The bacteria in plaque use the sugar and starch in what you eat and drink to make acids. The acids begin to eat away at the minerals on your enamel. Over time, the plaque can harden into tartar. Besides damaging your teeth, plaque and tartar can also irritate your gums and cause gum disease.

You get fluoride from toothpaste, water, and other sources. This fluoride, along with your salvia, helps the enamel repair itself by replacing the minerals. Your teeth go through this natural process of losing minerals and regaining minerals all day long. But if you don't take care of your teeth and/or you eat and drink lots of sugary or starchy things, your enamel will keep losing minerals. This leads to tooth decay.

A white spot may appear where minerals have been lost. This is an early sign of tooth decay. You may be able to stop or reverse the decay at this point. Your enamel can still repair itself, if you take better care of your teeth and limit sugary/starchy foods and drinks.

But if the tooth decay process continues, more minerals are lost. Over time, the enamel is weakened and destroyed, forming a cavity. A cavity is a hole in your tooth. It is permanent damage that a dentist has to repair with a filling.

Who is at risk for tooth decay?

The main risk factors for tooth decay are not taking care of your teeth and having too many sugary or starchy foods and drinks.

Some people have a higher risk of tooth decay, including people who

  • Don't have enough saliva, because of medicines, certain diseases, or some cancer treatments
  • Don't get enough fluoride
  • Are very young. Babies and toddlers who drink from bottles are at risk, especially if they are given juice or get bottles at bedtime. This exposes their teeth to sugars for long periods of time.
  • Are older. Many older adults have receding gums and more wear on their teeth. These raise the risk of decay on the exposed root surfaces of their teeth.
What are the symptoms of tooth decay and cavities?

In early tooth decay, you usually don't have symptoms. As tooth decay gets worse, it can cause

  • A toothache (tooth pain)
  • Tooth sensitivity to sweets, hot, or cold
  • White or brown stains on the surface of a tooth
  • A cavity
  • An infection, which can lead to an abscess (pocket of pus) forming. The abscess can cause pain, facial swelling, and fever.
How are tooth decay and cavities diagnosed?

Dentists usually find tooth decay and cavities by looking at your teeth and probing them with dental instruments. Your dentist will also ask if you have any symptoms. Sometimes you may need a dental x-ray.

What are the treatments for tooth decay and cavities?

There are several treatments for tooth decay and cavities. Which treatment you get depends on how bad the problem is:

  • Fluoride treatments. If you have early tooth decay, a fluoride treatment can help the enamel to repair itself.
  • Fillings. If you have a typical cavity, your dentist will remove the decayed tooth tissue and then restore the tooth by filling it with a filling material.
  • Root canal. If the damage to the tooth and/or an infection spreads to the pulp (inside of the tooth), you might need a root canal. Your dentist will remove the decayed pulp and clean inside the tooth and root. The next step is to fill the tooth with a temporary filling. Then you will need to come back to get a permanent filling or a crown (a cover on the tooth).
  • Extraction (pulling the tooth). In the most severe cases, when the damage to the pulp cannot be fixed, your dentist may pull the tooth. Your dentist will suggest that you get a bridge or implant to replace the missing tooth. Otherwise, the teeth next to the gap may move over and change your bite.
Can tooth decay be prevented?

There are steps that you can take to prevent tooth decay:

  • Make sure that you get enough fluoride by
    • Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste
    • Drinking tap water with fluoride. Most bottled water does not contain fluoride.
    • Using fluoride mouth rinse
  • Practice good oral health by brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and regularly flossing your teeth
  • Make smart food choices by limiting foods and drinks that are high in sugars and starches. Eat nutritious, balanced meals and limit snacking.
  • Do not use tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco. If you currently use tobacco, consider quitting.
  • See a dentist for regular check-ups and professional cleanings
  • Make sure that your children get sealants on their teeth. Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that protect the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Children should get sealants on their back teeth as soon as they come in, before decay can attack the teeth.

NIH: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research


Dental Caries
Mouth and Teeth
What is tooth decay? Tooth decay is damage to a tooth's surface, or enamel. It happens when bacteria in your mouth make acids that attack the enamel. ...