Tooth decay is incredibly common, but largely preventable through good oral hygiene. Changes to diet, regular visits to your dentist, and brushing and flossing regularly can prevent tooth decay and cavities. But what causes tooth decay to begin with, and what changes may be necessary to prevent further decay?
What is Tooth Decay?
Our teeth are made up of minerals, and tooth decay occurs when plaque builds up and acids in our saliva attack the hard surfaces of our teeth, resulting in mineral loss. The foods we eat and beverages we consume largely affects the acid levels in our mouth, as does the time of day we are consuming these items.
The acid is produced by a reaction between the sugars we consume and bacteria in our mouths from plaque. Sugary foods and those with a lot of carbohydrates can cause tooth decay, as can foods that tend to stick in our teeth. Limit your intake of foods or beverages with a lot of sugar, and avoid eating these types of snacks in-between meals. Over time, the acid produced by the bacteria reduces the strength of the enamel and can result in tooth decay or a cavity.
Does My Overall Health Affect Tooth Decay?
Each person is distinctively different and factors such as existing medical conditions, medications, family history and oral health history can all impact your risk of tooth decay and cavities. Talk with your dentist about your medical history and discuss ways to prevent additional tooth decay.
It is important to point out that regardless of your family history or your additional risk factors, tooth decay is preventable with the appropriate care. Flouride treatments and dental sealants both provide a barrier of protection against acids and bacteria causing tooth decay. Those with a family history or personal history may need to be extra diligent to effectively combat tooth decay.
Oral Hygiene Habits to Prevent Tooth Decay
Good oral hygiene can help prevent tooth decay. Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Brushing helps control plaque, and reduces the bad bacteria in your mouth. You should also clean in between teeth using floss or a type of interdental cleaner daily to remove plaque and any food that may be stuck between your teeth. You may also use a fluoride rinse after brushing.
See your dentist regularly for cleanings and exams. If you have problems with tooth decay, you may want to discuss fluoride treatments or dental sealants with your dentist.
Just as important as good oral hygiene, eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet can play a huge rule in preventing tooth decay. Avoid snacking on sugary or sticky foods, as these can promote the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Some foods containing carbohydrates like breads and cereals may not seem harmful, but they typically contain sugars and also promote acidity. Eating these items with other food items as part of a meal can counter the acidic reaction and lessen the potential damage.
Reducing Tooth Decay Through Daily Practices
It is possible to reduce tooth decay and to prevent cavities by making small changes in our daily routines. Make brushing and flossing a priority everyday. Avoid drinking sodas or sweetened beverages, and swap out sugary snacks for more healthy options.
If you have problems with tooth decay, your dentist can be your best resource for identifying things you can do to lower your risk of developing cavities. Talk to your dentist about your family history, and share any concerns you may have about tooth decay, plaque and cavities. If you are looking for a dentist in the Blackfoot. Call Dr. Dennis Hatch to schedule an appointment in Blackfoot.