Posts for tag: tooth decay
Tooth decay doesn't occur out of thin air, but is the end result of bacteria feeding on sugar, multiplying and producing acid. High acidity erodes tooth enamel and creates an environment for cavity development.
Modern dentistry can effectively treat cavities and often save the tooth from further damage. But you don't have to wait: You can reduce your chances of cavities by managing risk factors that contribute to decay.
Here are 4 top risk factors for tooth decay and what you can do about them.
Poor saliva flow. Saliva neutralizes acid and helps restore minerals to enamel after acid contact. But your enamel may not have full protection against acid if you have diminished saliva flow, often due to certain medications. You can help increase your saliva by consulting with your doctor about drug alternatives, drinking more water or using a saliva boosting product. Smoking can also inhibit saliva, so consider quitting if you smoke.
Eating habits. High sugar content in your diet can increase bacterial growth and acid production. Reducing your overall sugar consumption, therefore, can reduce your risk of decay. Continuous snacking can also increase your decay risk, preventing saliva from bringing your mouth back to its normal neutral pH. Instead, limit your snack periods to just a few times a day, or reserve all your eating for mealtimes.
Dental plaque. Daily eating creates a filmy buildup on the teeth called dental plaque. If not removed, plaque can then harden into a calcified form called calculus, an ideal haven for bacteria. You can help curtail this accumulation by thoroughly brushing and flossing daily, followed by dental cleanings at least every six months. These combined hygiene practices can drastically reduce your cavity risk.
Your genetics. Researchers have identified up to 50 specific genes that can influence the risk for cavities. As a result, individuals with similar dietary and hygiene practices can have vastly different experiences with tooth decay. Besides continuing good lifestyle habits, the best way to manage a genetic disposition for dental disease is not to neglect ongoing professional dental care.
If you would like more information on managing your tooth decay risk factors, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “What Everyone Should Know About Tooth Decay.”
It is important to eat a diet that is rich in nutrients and vitamins. Vitamin deficiencies can cause issues with overall health and oral health.
Raw crunchy fruit and vegetables
These are great for your teeth because they act as self-cleansers. Fruits and vegetables such as fresh carrots, apples and celery will help to remove plaque from your tooth surfaces and leave your teeth cleaner.
Cheese helps to reduce the pH level of your mouth because on a pH scale, it is more basic than acidic. This can be helpful to reduce the acidity of your mouth, especially after eating or drinking something more acidic or sugary. Cheese can also help reduce cavities and acid erosion.
Candies or gum containing Xylitol
Xylitol is an ingredient that is added into toothpaste, mouthwash, gum, mints and candies that helps to reduce the cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth. Xylitol helps to reduce your risk of cavities.
Bad Foods for Your Teeth
Unfortunately, there are many foods out that are bad for teeth than there are foods that are good for your teeth. Sugars and acids are the two main factors to try to reduce or avoid.
Soda is dangerous because it contains both acids and sugars. Soda bathes your teeth in both sugars and acids with every sip and extends the exposure time to your teeth. It is important to note that if you sip a small soda over a few hours, it is worse for your teeth than gulping down a large soda all at once. Cavities are caused by exposure time more so than quantity.
Candy contains sugars and is often sticky, chewy or gummy and will get stuck in the biting surfaces of your teeth. Any candy that doesn’t clear away from your teeth quickly will extend the exposure time to the sugar and potentially cause more cavities.
While relatively good for your health, too much citrus fruit can lead to enamel erosion because of the acids. Try to rinse your mouth with water after eating citrus fruits or foods high in acid.
While dental diseases tend to be a greater concern as we get older, they also pose a potential threat to children. A particular type of tooth decay called early childhood caries (ECC) can severely damage children's unprotected teeth and skew their normal dental development.
Fortunately, you can protect your child's teeth from disease with a few simple practices. First and foremost: start a hygiene habit as soon as possible to remove disease-causing bacterial plaque. You don't have to wait until teeth appear, either: simply wipe the baby's gums with a clean wet cloth after nursing to minimize the growth of oral bacteria.
When their teeth do begin to erupt, you can switch to brushing (you can add flossing as more teeth erupt—but until the child shows appropriate dexterity, you'll need to do it for them). For infants, brush gently but thoroughly with a soft-bristled brush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste. When they grow older you can increase the toothpaste to a pea-sized amount. And as soon as you can, get them involved with learning to perform these vital habits on their own.
You should also limit your child's consumption of sugar. Our favorite carbohydrate is also a favorite of bacteria, who consume any remnants in dental plaque as a primary food source. So, keep sugary snacks and foods to a minimum and limit them mainly to mealtimes. And don't put a baby to sleep with a bottle filled with a liquid containing sugar (including formula and breastmilk).
Finally, begin taking your child to the dentist regularly by their first birthday for routine cleanings and checkups. Besides removing any hard to reach plaque, your dentist may also apply sealants and topical fluoride to help protect and strengthen tooth enamel. Regular visits make it more likely to detect the early signs of decay, before it does extensive damage. And beginning early makes it less likely your child will develop a fear of dental visits that could carry on into adulthood.
These and other steps will go a long way in protecting your child's teeth and gums so they develop normally. A little prevention and protection will help ensure a happy, healthy smile later in life.
If you would like more information on helping your child develop healthy teeth and gums, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Top 10 Oral Health Tips for Children.”