In past blogs we’ve addressed how to take care of your teeth, how to brush, how to floss, etc. There are other things you can do to head off tooth decay before it ever gets a foothold, so this blog let’s get into those.
Preventing tooth decay
Almost all food has sugar of some sort, whether it tastes sweet or not. Plus, every mouth is teeming with bacteria. Together, they can spell decay, that five-letter dental swear word you don’t want to hear. Acids are produced when bacteria eat sugar. Those acids are the culprits that break down the mineral content in the enamel of our teeth, allowing bacteria into the tooth. Once bacteria gains a foothold in a tooth, this starts the process of decay that results in a cavity, and if not treated, far more heinous dental issues. If left untreated, tooth loss, gum disease… it’s not pretty.
That’s why we want you to come to Gentle Dental twice each year for your professional cleanings and exams. Six months is about the time it takes for decay to take hold, if accompanied by sloppy hygiene. Minimal decay is removed and the affected area, the cavity, is filled. That makes the tooth healthy and decay free again. If not treated, the decay can progress, ending in gum and nerve damage. Even more severe decay will result in extraction of the tooth. But tooth decay is easily preventable with brushing, flossing, use of fluoride toothpaste, refraining from an overly sugar-filled diet, and regular checkups with us.
Our molars, the heavy lifters of chewing, have depressions and grooves in them where food and bacteria can hide out. Think of crevasses in your teeth, if you’re into glaciers. Genetics are usually behind these deep pits, but it can be virtually impossible to get all the food particles out of teeth like that. Because you can’t get everything out, decay forms. A recent study found that 88 percent of cavities suffered by U.S. children formed in this fashion. Sealants can give you a way to fight back. Sealants are made of resin and are used to fill the fissures and pits in your molars, keeping out bacteria and food particles. After curing, sealants are almost as hard as your teeth, so chewing is unaffected. And they can last for decades.
Although some crazed paranoids think fluoride is a Communist conspiracy to poison our water supply, most sane people understand the power of fluoride. Fluoride has been scientifically proven to significantly reduce tooth decay. In fact, communities with fluoride added to the water supply have a 50% decrease in tooth decay in children. In addition to fluoridated water and toothpaste, there are also fluoride supplements and fluoride gels or varnishes that we apply to our younger patients’ teeth.