Tooth decay is a very common oral problem faced by people of all ages. It’s a process that occurs over time and, if not reversed, leads to permanent damage to the teeth in the form of cavities. Tooth decay can lead to many severe consequences, not only causing pain and infection but also leading to tooth loss.
Here is everything you need to know to prevent tooth decay and keep your teeth healthy.
What causes tooth decay?
Our mouth harbors millions of bacteria that live on the teeth, gums, and tongue. And to be more specific, a sticky, colorless film of bacteria known as dental plaque constantly forms on the teeth. The bacteria from this plaque uses sugars and starch from the food to produce acid. The acid eats away at the harder, outer layer of the tooth, known as the enamel, and slowly and gradually destroys it.
The constant acid attacks lead to the loss of minerals, which are continuously replaced by saliva and fluoride in our mouth. Hence, a constant tug of war keeps going on in the mouth between the bacteria and the minerals. The problem begins, however, when we eat or drink too often and the ongoing acid attacks lead to more mineral loss than the saliva and fluoride in our mouth can replace.
When the above process continues for a prolonged period, it permanently damages the teeth, making a hole or a cavity. A cavity is a permanent damage that can only be filled by a dentist. If the cavity isn’t filled, it becomes deeper and eventually leads to pulp damage that can either lead to the loss of tooth or make a root canal treatment necessary.
How to reverse the process of tooth decay and avoid getting cavities
If you think you’re having tooth decay, here is the good news for you: it can be reversed easily. Here is how you can reverse the process of tooth decay and avoid getting cavities.
Fluoride is the key
When it comes to oral care, fluoride is the key that keeps most diseases and problems at bay. Fluoride helps restore lost minerals and repair damaged enamel. It also reduces the ability of bacteria to produce acid.
You mainly get fluoride from two sources: toothpaste and fluoridated drinking water. About 74% of Americans served from a community water supply system receive fluoridated water. However, if you think you aren’t getting enough fluoride, consider using fluoride mouth rinses, fluoride gels and varnishes or fluoride tablets.
Keep an eye on what you eat and how often you eat
The bacteria on our teeth produce acid every time we eat or drink something with sugars or starch. If we consume sugars too often, the constant acid attacks can damage the teeth. To prevent this, limit between-meal snacks; this reduces the number of acid attacks and gives a chance to our teeth to repair themselves. Also, make sure you limit your sugar and starch consumption. Another important thing is to make sure you don’t eat or drink anything after bedtime brushing. The flow of saliva reduces during sleep and without enough saliva, teeth are less able to repair themselves.
Brush, brush, brush!
Brushing twice a day is the first advice every dentist gives. Brush with a fluoride toothpaste and use a soft bristled toothbrush with a small head that easily reaches the hard to reach areas in your mouth. Also, floss between your teeth once a day and use a fluoride mouthwash to rinse your mouth daily.
Maintaining good oral hygiene habits will prevent the buildup of bacteria in your mouth and reduce the ability of bacteria to produce acid from food.
Visit your dentist regularly
To make sure you don’t get cavities, it’s important that you visit your dentist every 6 months. The dentist will scale and polish your teeth, removing dental plaque and tartar, which are the harbor grounds for bacteria. The dentist will also check for any early signs of tooth decay, which can be easily reversed with proper oral hygiene.
A dental visit twice a year can help prevent many diseases and oral problems that can not only cost thousands of dollars in treatment procedures but can also lead to a lot of pain and even to the loss of natural teeth.
Tooth decay can be a serious problem if not reversed and treated in time. It not only leads to cavities but can also lead to sensitivity in teeth, bad breath and even gum diseases. Hence, early detection and treatment can save you a lot of trouble later on.