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"Cavities" is another way of saying tooth decay. Tooth decay is heavily influenced by lifestyle — what we eat, how well we take care of our teeth, the presence of fluoride in our water and toothpaste. Heredity also plays a role in how susceptible your teeth may be to decay.

Mouth irritations and oral lesions are swellings, spots or sores on your mouth, lips or tongue. Although there are numerous types of mouth sores and disorders, among the most common are Aphthous ulcers, cold sores, leukoplakia and candidiasis (thrush). These are discussed below. If you have a mouth sore, you're not alone — around one third of all people are affected at some point. Nonetheless, mouth sores, irritations and lesions can be painful, unsightly and can interfere with eating and speaking. Any mouth sore that persists for a week or more should be examined by your dentist. A biopsy (tissue taken for testing) may be advised and can usually determine the cause, ruling out such serious diseases as cancer and HIV.

You may have read articles in newspapers and magazines about "TMD" — temporomandibular (jaw) disorders, also called "TMJ syndrome." Perhaps you have even felt pain sometimes in your jaw area, or maybe your dentist or physician has told you that you have TMD.

What are the different parts of the tooth? Crown: the top part of the tooth, and the only part you can normally see. The shape of the crown determines the tooth's function. For example, front teeth are sharp and chisel-shaped for cutting, while molars have flat surfaces for grinding.

What is tartar? Tartar, sometimes called calculus, is plaque that has hardened on your teeth. Tartar can also form at and underneath the gumline and can irritate gum tissues. Tartar gives plaque more surface area on which to grow and a much stickier surface to adhere to, which can lead to more serious conditions, such as cavities and gum disease.

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December 2019