Teeth are necessary for chopping food into small pieces to make digestion easier. Each person has two sets of teeth: the primary teeth, which emerge in infancy, and the secondary teeth, which gradually replace the primary teeth in late childhood. Both sets are protected from damage and decay by a hard coating of enamel and by the gums, which cover the roots.
Good oral hygiene is essential because without regular brushing and flossing of the teeth and gums, tooth decay or gum disease may develop. Improved oral hygiene and the addition of fluoride to water in many parts of the world in order to harden teeth have made tooth decay far less common today than it was several decades ago.
The first articles in this section deal with tooth disorders that are usually caused by neglect of oral hygiene, such as toothache and tooth decay. If left untreated, tooth decay may spread to the central parts of the teeth and cause pulpitis. Pus may eventually build up at the root of a tooth due to infection, resulting in a dental abscess. Poor oral hygiene can also cause teeth to become discoloured. Malocclusion caused by teeth that have grown unevenly or become overcrowded is covered in Malocclusiion. Sometimes teeth are missing or are broken or lost due to injury. Problems of the temporomandibular joint are covered in the last article of this section. Teething in babies is discussed in the children’s section.
For more information on the structure and function of teeth, see Teeth and Gums.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.