Dental and oral health is an essential part of your overall health and well-being. Poor oral hygiene can lead to dental cavities and gum disease, and has also been linked to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is a lifelong commitment. The earlier you learn proper oral hygiene habits — such as brushing, flossing, and limiting your sugar intake — the easier it’ll be to avoid costly dental procedures and long-term health issues.

You shouldn’t wait until you have symptoms to visit your dentist. Going to the dentist twice a year will usually allow them to catch a problem before you even notice any symptoms.

If you experience any of the following warning signs of dental health issues

Your oral cavity collects all sorts of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Some of them belong there, making up the normal flora of your mouth. They’re generally harmless in small quantities. But a diet high in sugar creates conditions in which acid-producing bacteria can flourish. This acid dissolves tooth enamel and causes dental cavities.

Bacteria near your gumline thrive in a sticky matrix called plaque. Plaque accumulates, hardens, and migrates down the length of your tooth if it isn’t removed regularly by brushing and flossing. This can inflame your gums and cause the condition known as gingivitis.

Increased inflammation causes your gums to begin to pull away from your teeth. This process creates pockets in which pus may eventually collect. This more advanced stage of gum disease is called periodontitis.

Your dentist might tap or scrape at your teeth with various tools or instruments to assist with a diagnosis.

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