Healthy teeth, mouth, and gums are very important to a person's overall health. The term oral refers to the whole mouth, including the teeth, gums, hard and soft palate, tongue, lips, salivary glands, and chewing muscles. Good oral health means being free of tooth decay and gum disease, as well as being free of chronic oral pain conditions, oral cancer, and birth defects such as cleft lip and palate. Tooth decay and gum disease are largely caused by plaque, a sticky material that develops on the exposed portions of the teeth, consisting of bacteria, mucus, and food debris. Plaque accumulates on teeth after eating, and if it is not removed thoroughly each day, it will mineralize and harden into a hard deposit called tartar, which ...

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