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Have you thought about your pearly whites much since you ran out of baby teeth to sell to the Tooth Fairy? Aside from time spent brushing, in our experience, people don’t give much thought to their dental health, unless there’s a cosmetic concern or they’re in pain.

Our ambition is to help our patients protect their smiles by maintaining excellent oral health. Sometimes practicing great oral hygiene is simply a matter of having a better understanding of it. To this end, below we’ve included seven important terms that everyone should know.

1. Abscess — A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that is the result of a bacterial infection. This condition requires antibiotics, because it will continue to damage the tooth as long as it’s not being treated. If this infection gets into your bloodstream, then you’ll have additional health concerns beyond your oral health.

2. Cavity — A permanently damaged area on the tooth that is decayed. And because an untreated cavity can continue to develop, it can altogether destroy the tooth. Cavities occur more often in the molars (back teeth), because bacteria easily collect in their ridges.

3. Enamel — The hard, calcified tissue that covers the dentin of the crown of the tooth and protects it from tooth decay.

4. Fluoride — A mineral that’s often referred to as “Nature’s cavity-fighter,” because it strengthens enamel by making teeth more resistant to the acid attacks that cause cavities.

5. Gingivitis — An inflammation of gum tissue that makes it red, swollen and likely to bleed. On the gum disease spectrum, gingivitis is relatively mild and can be treated with daily brushing and flossing, as well as a regular cleaning at our office.

6. Periodontal Disease — An infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. If your gums bleed easily or they are red, swollen, or tender, then you may have periodontal disease (also known as gum disease). Another sign of periodontal disease is if your gums recede or pull away from your teeth.

7. Plaque — A very sticky film of bacteria that is always developing on your teeth. When you eat sugary food or drinks, there are bacteria in plaque that produce acids which attack and destroy your tooth enamel, the layer that protects your teeth.

8. Sealant — A thin, plastic material that is painted onto the chewing surfaces of the molars (back teeth). Sealants provide a protective coating that helps to preserve tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay.

9. Tartar — The mouth is filled with bacteria that form plaque on your teeth. The purpose of brushing and flossing is to get rid of this plaque, but if it isn’t removed, the plaque soon hardens and forms tartar (also known as calculus), which cannot be removed by brushing. At that point, only your dental office can safely and effectively remove tartar through professional cleaning.

If you haven’t thought much about your dental health since your “Tooth Fairy days,” then we’d recommend that you come and visit us. Our gentle and compassionate staff will take good care of you. Feel free to call 505-662-3163 to schedule an appointment. We can’t wait to hear from you!