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Diagram of human teeth.

Diagram of human teeth.
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Mouth and teeth

2-minute read

A healthy mouth is important to your overall health, and for eating, drinking, breathing and speaking.

Regular visits to a dentist can help keep your mouth healthy.

The structures in your mouth, including your teeth and salivary glands, begin the digestion of the food you eat.

Parts of your mouth

Your mouth has:

  • lips
  • teeth and gums
  • soft and hard palates, which form the roof of your mouth
  • tonsils
  • a tongue
  • salivary glands

Your teeth allow you to chew your food. They have a crown above the gumline, and roots in the bone below the gumline. Incisors have sharp biting surfaces, canines are pointed and cone shaped (for tearing), and premolars and molars have flat grinding surfaces.

Normal tooth development

A baby’s teeth start to grow before they are born. The first tooth usually appears from about 6 months — most children have all their primary teeth (or baby teeth) by the time they are 2 or 3.

Tips for a healthy mouth

Dentists suggest that for a healthy mouth you should:

  • brush twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste (when older than 18 months old and use a child-strength toothpaste for young children)
  • floss daily
  • eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • drink plenty of tap water
  • have regular check-ups with your dentist
  • stop smoking
  • limit the amount of alcohol and soft drinks you consume
  • think twice about oral piercings, which can lead to mouth infections and tooth damage
  • address stress — this can lead to teeth grinding, mouth ulcers and cold sores

If you play a sport where there’s a risk of injury to your teeth, you should wear a mouthguard.

Preventing tooth decay

Tooth decay is caused by the bacteria living in plaque on your teeth. These bacteria use the sugar in what you eat and drink to produce acid, which causes holes in your teeth over time.

You can help prevent tooth decay by:

  • choosing food and drink that’s low in sugar
  • eating fresh produce rather than processed foods
  • reading the label — if sugar is listed in the top 3 ingredients, it’s usually not a healthy product for your teeth
  • good dental hygiene including regularly brushing teeth

Anyone, even babies can suffer from tooth decay, so it’s important to teach toddlers good oral hygiene.

Read more about mouth and teeth care.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2020


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