Gum disease is common and unpleasant, but, according to a growing body of evidence, it could also play a role in a surprising range of seemingly unrelated health problems.
Woman cleaning teeth
Cleaning your teeth may be even more important than you thought.

Plaque — a sticky substance that contains bacteria — builds up on teeth. If it is not brushed away, the bacteria can irritate the gums.

The gums may then become swollen, sore, or infected; this is referred to as gingivitis.

It was my first year out of dental school, and I was treating a two-and-a-half-year-old girl who grew up in a community without fluoride in the water. Her four front teeth were so badly decayed, painful and infected that I had to remove them completely. For a tiny toddler, the lights and sounds of the dental chair can feel terrifying. Although she was scared and crying, she held perfectly still while I treated her. I was so proud of her.

You can help prevent your baby from getting cavities or developing what is called Baby Bottle Tooth Decay or Early Childhood Caries, by beginning an oral hygiene routine within the first few days after birth. Start by cleaning your baby’s mouth by wiping the gums with a clean gauze pad. This helps removes plaque that can harm erupting teeth. When your child's teeth begin to come in, brush them gently with a child's size toothbrush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice.