When I was a young teenager, my friend Colin had braces. When we all camped at Wilderness camp together, and herds of kids would go off exploring in the woods, hiking atop cliffs, or throwing things into waterfalls, Colin’s mom would always be yelling at him, “Come back and brush your teeth!” In fact, we all perfected Colin’s mom-isms, including “bruuush youuurrr teeeeeth” echoing forlornly through the Purcell mountain range like the lonely call of a strange new beast. There was also the Hamburger Helper without the Hamburger, but that’s not the point here.
Today I got up close and personal with why we should brush our teeth.
Professor Jun is going to give a talk to his daughter’s class on the perils of tooth decay (Latin: Dental caries). he has a coupple of power point presentations. One is full of cute little Korean anime guys. One is full of grisly closeups of decaying teeth. Both are effective in their own ways.
But today he needed me to work a good English translation up for him, as both his presentations are in Korean. And here’s what I learned:
The stuff that causes plaque is a mutant relative of the Streptococci bacterium.
This little bad bug actually excretes the stuff that turns into plaque on our teeth. Excretes it! Plaque is bug poo! Ew.
The Streptococci mutant bugs feed off sugar. This is why it’s important to brush your teeth before going to bed. They won’t have anything th snack on all night.
The pH of our saliva falls at night, which is dangerous because it causes erosion of the enamel of the teeth. This is also, obviousy, harmful. Saliva’s daytime pH is about a 6. It can fall at night to 7.6 or so, and this can be dangerous over the long term.
Excuse me. I’m going to go brush the bug poo off my teeth. Oh, and floss.