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Teeth through the ages

Fluoride vs plaque

Plaque is the sticky, soft layer that forms on teeth every day. If left to build up, plaque causes tooth decay and gum disease. The bacteria in plaque, reacts with sugar to produce an acid that dissolves the minerals in teeth - over time this causes cavities (holes).

Cavities can cause pain and discomfort and will eventually need dental work. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste, having a healthy diet, regular check-ups and preventive treatments provided by dental therapists and dentists, will help stop plaque build-up and cavities.

Fluoride is an important weapon in the war against plaque. It is a natural element found in air, soil, fresh water, sea water, plants and lots of foods. Most of the fluoride we eat or drink comes from water, food and toothpaste. Fluoride in food, drink and our saliva continually washes over our teeth to help protect them.

Fluoride helps protect our teeth from tooth decay in two main ways:

  • it strengthens growing teeth
  • it can help fix the very early stages of decay in all teeth.

Adult teeth

From about six years old, the second set of teeth will begin to appear. This change continues until all the adult teeth (except the wisdom teeth) have come through at around 14 years old. As teeth develop, its important the routine of brushing twice a day and regular flossing continues.

The teenage years

Teenagers go through lots of changes – starting high school, starting work, leaving home and growing up. Oral health and looking after teeth is even more important during these years. Remember to continue with regular dental check-ups, which are free up to your 18th birthday. You should carry on brushing twice a day.

Sport and mouthguards

It's important you wear a mouthguard when playing sport so that your teeth and gums are protected. If a tooth is damaged or lost, see a dental professional straight away. If a tooth is knocked out, put it back into the socket if you can. If you can’t, keep the tooth moist by putting it into your mouth next to your cheek, or in a cup of milk.

Take the tooth with you to your dentist as quickly as possible – the dentist may be able to save your tooth.