Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.
Information from Your Family Doctor
Common Dental Infections
Am Fam Physician. 2018 Dec 1;98(11):online.
What are dental caries?
Dental caries (CARE-eez) are tooth infections caused by certain germs in the mouth. Caries destroy the enamel (hard outer layer) and dentin (bone-like tissue under the enamel) of the teeth. Dental caries are also called cavities or tooth decay. Caries that occur in young children are more common in people who do not have good access to health care.
How can I prevent dental caries?
Taking care of your mouth is important. You and your family members should visit a dentist each year, starting at one year of age. You should brush twice a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride (FLOORide), a mineral that makes teeth stronger. You can start teaching children to brush with a smear of low-fluoride toothpaste. When children are two to five years old, they can use a pea-sized amount of regular fluoride toothpaste. After six years of age, they can use more. Daily flossing is also important.
What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis (JINJ-uh-VI-tiss) happens when the gums are inflamed. They might be hot, red, and swollen.
What is a periodontal infection?
Periodontal (PAIR-ee-oh-DON-tal) infections happen when germs build up in the gums. If the gums are inflamed for a long time, bone loss around the teeth can occur.
How can I avoid gum disease?
You can prevent gum disease by brushing and flossing your teeth every day.
Where can I get more information?
AAFP's Patient Information Resource
American Dental Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.
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