We all want to have a strong set of teeth that will last us a lifetime, but that may be easier said than done since cavities and tooth decay rank as the second most common health disorder in the U.S. To avoid tooth decay, you need to know how it starts, how to detect it, and how to protect yourself. Here is a primer on how to avoid tooth decay.
Let’s start with cavities, those damaged areas of your teeth that develop into tiny holes that require filling. They’re caused by food and bacteria that lead to the formation of plaque. The plaque produces acid that eats away and removes the minerals in enamel, which is the hard, protective layer of your teeth. Now there are small holes in the enamel which, left untreated, can wear away your dentin, the next layer of teeth. Or worse, it can move deeper into the pulp and inner layers of the tooth, resulting in a bacterial infection and a lot of pain.
A Sensitive Issue
You may not realize you have a cavity when it first develops. However, as tooth decay worsens, you may be aware of tooth sensitivity, as well as pain when you eat or drink something sweet, hot or cold. Or, you may notice a hole in your tooth or brown, black, or white stains on the tooth surface. Too often, decay is a result of bad or negligent behaviors; other times it is a result of things beyond your immediate control such as taking certain medications. Either way, you are at a higher risk of getting tooth decay if you:
- Smoke or do tobacco
- Are diabetic
- Eat high carbohydrate or sugary foods that feed the bacteria in your mouth
- Neglect to regularly (or properly) brush and floss your teeth
- Experience frequent dry mouth as saliva helps wash away food and sugars that harm your teeth
Here are several preventive measures you can take to help avoid tooth decay:
· Brush your teeth and floss your teeth at least twice a day. If you consumer sugary substances, wait at least 30 minutes before you brush so you don’t wear away the enamel on your teeth.
· Rinse frequently. If you’re at a high risk for cavities or if you can’t brush after eating, at least rinse your mouth out with water or mouthwash. Ask your dentist about special antibacterial mouth rinses. If you have a medical condition or other factors that make you especially susceptible to tooth decay, your dentist can recommend treatments to help reduce harmful bacteria.
· Chew gum. A number of chewing gums are actually beneficial to dental health by increasing the flow of saliva, removing stuck particles of food, and pulling plaque off the teeth. Be sure to choose only dentist-recommend, sugarless gums.
· Consider a dental sealant. This is a protective, plastic coating that seals off parts of your teeth that tend to collect food and bacteria. It is applied to the surface of the back teeth where it lasts up to 10 years before it needs to be replaced.
· Cut back on snacking and sipping. This just exposes your teeth to carbs and sugar, which feed the acid-producing bacteria in your mouth which causes the decay of your tooth enamel. Instead, drink plenty of water and stick with tooth-healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables to help increase saliva flow and provide minerals for your tooth enamel.
· Keep up with regularly scheduled dental visits. A detailed dental exam followed by a good professional cleaning not only leaves your mouth feeling fresh and your smile white, it also provides your dentist an opportunity to look in every nook and cranny to make sure you are plaque- and cavity-free.
The friendly staff at 360 Dental welcomes your call and looks forward to serving you. If you have any questions about our general or restorative dental services, please call our Eugene office today at (541) 689-1645. To schedule an appointment, you can call us or use our secure online appointment request form.