Your teeth let you bite and chew food.
Teeth have different parts. The part you can see is called the crown. The root of the tooth holds the tooth in place. Your gums and bone surround the root.
The hard white cover of a tooth is called enamel. Under the enamel are the dentin and pulp.
Each tooth has a different role. For example, one type of tooth, an incisor, can cut food, while another type, a molar, grinds food.
Teeth also can be important to speech. For example, to make a "th" sound, you must touch your front teeth with your tongue.
Tooth decay can cause pain (toothache), small holes (cavities), infection (such as an abscess), and tooth loss. This decay is caused by plaque, a thin film of bacteria that sticks to the teeth above and below the gum line. Tartar is a hard buildup of plaque. Plaque and tartar use sugars in food to make acids that eat away at teeth.
Gum disease is inflammation or infection of the tissues and bones that surround and support the teeth. Many things can cause it, including the growth of plaque under the gums. Gum disease can cause red, swollen gums that bleed when you brush your teeth. It can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss.
Stains on the teeth can be caused by food, drink, and tobacco use.
Also, teeth can be chipped, broken, or knocked out.
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Current as of: August 9, 2016
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
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