Throughout your life, you will have two sets of teeth: primary (baby) teeth and secondary (permanent) teeth. At age 6-8 months, the primary teeth appear; all 20 are in place by age 3.
Permanent teeth will begin to grow around age 6, and except for wisdom teeth, are all present between ages 12 and 14. The next teeth to grow in are the 12-year molars and finally the wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth typically begin breaking through from age 17 and on. The total number of permanent teeth is 32, though few people have room for all 32 teeth. This is why wisdom teeth are usually removed.
Your front teeth are called incisors. The sharp “fang-like” teeth are canines. The next side teeth are referred to as pre-molars or bicuspids, and the back teeth are molars. Your permanent teeth are the ones you keep for life, so it is vital that they are brushed and flossed regularly and that periodic check-ups by a dentist are followed.
Common Dental Problems
Tooth decay, also known as caries or cavities, is preventable. Carbohydrate-rich foods, such as candy, cookies, soft drinks and even fruit juices, leave deposits on your teeth. Those deposits bond with the bacteria that normally survive in your mouth and form plaque. The combination of deposits and plaque forms acids that can damage the mineral structure of teeth and eat away at tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.
Your teeth expand and contract in reaction to changes in temperature. Hot and cold foods and beverages can cause pain or irritation to people with sensitive teeth. Over time, tooth enamel can be worn down, gums may recede or teeth may develop microscopic cracks, exposing the interior of the tooth and irritating nerve endings. Simply breathing cold air can be painful for those with extremely sensitive teeth.
Gum, or periodontal, disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss and bone damage, and common indicators are consistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth. Gums in the early stage of disease, known as gingivitis, can bleed easily and become red and swollen. As the disease progresses to periodontitis, teeth may fall out or need to be removed by a dentist. Gum disease is highly preventable and can usually be avoided through daily brushing and flossing.
Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Daily brushing and flossing helps to prevent the build-up of food particles, plaque and bacteria in your mouth. Food particles left in the mouth deteriorate and cause bad breath. While certain foods, such as garlic or anchovies, may create temporary bad breath, consistent bad breath may be a sign of gum disease or another dental problem.
Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are small sores inside the mouth that often recur. They have a white or gray base surrounded by a red border. Generally lasting one or two weeks, the duration of canker sores can be reduced by the use of antimicrobial mouthwashes or topical agents.
A bite that does not meet properly (a malocclusion) can be inherited, or some types of improper bites may be acquired. Common causes of malocclusion include missing or extra teeth, crowded teeth, misaligned jaws, injuries/trauma or developmental issues, such as finger or thumb sucking.
Emergency Dental Problems
Begin by meticulously cleaning around the sore tooth. Using warm salt water, rinse the mouth to displace any food trapped between teeth. Do not use aspirin on the aching tooth or on the gum. If you have facial swelling, apply a cold compress to the area. For temporary pain relief, acetaminophen is recommended. If the pain persists more than a day, please contact us.
Cut or Bitten Tongue, Lip, or Cheek
Ice can be applied to any bruised areas. For bleeding, apply firm (but gentle) pressure with sterile gauze or a clean cloth. If the bleeding does not stop with pressure, or continues longer than 15 minutes, please go to the nearest emergency room.
Recover any of the broken tooth fragments. Rinse the area with warm water, and apply a cold compress over the facial area of the injury. Please seek immediate dental attention.
Knocked Out Permanent Tooth
Recover the tooth, making sure to hold it by the crown (top) and not the root. Rinse, but do not clean or handle the tooth more than necessary. Reinsert the tooth into the socket, and hold it in place using a clean piece of gauze or cloth. If the tooth cannot be reinserted, carry it in a cup of milk or water. Time is essential, so see a dentist immediately.
Possible Broken Jaw
In the event of a jaw injury, tie the mouth closed with a towel, tie or handkerchief. Go immediately to the nearest emergency room.
Bleeding after loss of a “baby tooth”
Fold a piece of gauze, and place it (tightly) over the bleeding area. Bite down on the gauze for 15 minutes. If the bleeding continues, please see a dentist.
Cold Sores or Canker Sores
Over-the-counter medications will usually provide temporary relief. If the sores persist, visit your dentist.
Glossary of Dental Terms
Abscess – infection caused by severe tooth decay, trauma or gum disease
Amalgam – a silver and mercury material used for fillings
Anesthetic – a drug used by your doctor to eliminate a patient’s localized pain during certain dental procedures
Anterior – the teeth in the front of your mouth
Apex – the very tip of the root of a tooth
Aspirator – a suction device your dentist uses to remove saliva from your mouth
Bonding – a plastic composite painted on the teeth to correct stains or damage
Bridge – one or more artificial teeth attached to your adjacent teeth
Bruxism – the clenching or grinding of teeth, most commonly while sleeping
Calculus – the hardened plaque that can form on neglected or prone teeth, commonly known as tartar
Canine – the pointy teeth just behind the laterals
Caries – another name for cavities or decayed teeth
Cavity – a tiny hole in the tooth caused by decay
Central – the two upper and two lower teeth in the center of the mouth
Crown – an artificial tooth or cover made of porcelain or metal
Cuspid – the pointy teeth just behind the laterals, also known as canines
Decalcification – the loss of calcium from the teeth
Dental Implants – an implant is attached to the jawbone that replaces a missing tooth or teeth
Dentures – a removable set of artificial teeth
Enamel – the hard surface of the tooth above the gum line
Endodontist – a dentist who specializes in root canals and the treatment of diseases and infections of the dental pulp (inner tooth)
Extraction – the removal of a tooth or teeth
Filling – a plug made of metal or composite material used to fill a tooth cavity
Fluoride – a chemical solution used to harden teeth and prevent decay
Gingivitis – inflammation of gums around the roots of the teeth
Gums – the firm flesh that surrounds the roots of the teeth
Impacted Tooth – often occurring with wisdom teeth, it is a tooth that sits sideways below the gum line, often requiring extraction
Incisor – one of the flat, sharp-edged teeth in the front of the mouth
Inlays – a custom-made filling cemented into an unhealthy tooth
Lateral – these are the teeth adjacent to the centrals
Night Guard – a plastic mouthpiece worn at night to prevent grinding of the teeth; also used to treat TMJ
Pedodontist – also known as a pediatric dentist, a dentist that specializes in the treatment of children’s teeth
Periodontist – a dentist specializing in the treatment of gum disease
Plaque – a sticky buildup of acids and bacteria that causes tooth decay
Posterior Teeth – the teeth in the back of the mouth
Primary Teeth – also known as “baby teeth”
Prosthodontist – a dentist specializing in the restoration and replacement of missing teeth or severely damaged teeth
Root – the portion of the tooth below your gum line
Root Canal – cleaning out and filling the inside nerve of a tooth that is heavily decayed
Sealant – plastic coating applied to teeth to prevent decay. Used most commonly for children
Secondary Teeth – the permanent teeth
Sleep Apnea – a potentially serious disorder in which a sleeping person may stop breathing for 10 seconds or more, often continuously throughout the night
TMJ Syndrome – a disorder associated with the joint of the jaw, often caused by a misalignment of or a disparity in upper and lower jaw sizes.
Tooth Whitening – a process designed to whiten and brighten teeth
Veneer – a plastic, porcelain or composite material used to improve the attractiveness of a stained or damaged tooth