We all dread hearing the word ‘cavity’ at our dental visits. Tooth decay is probably the most prevalent oral disease, affecting almost everyone during his or her lifetime. The good news is that it’s treatable and is essentially preventable. Tooth decay is the destruction of tooth structure and can affect both the enamel and the dentin layer of the tooth. The tooth decay process begins with dental plaque. Bacteria, which naturally live in everyone’s mouth but thrive in plaque, utilize carbohydrates from food, especially refined sugar, to produce acid. Acid, if produced frequently, will demineralize the tooth enamel structure, which is the hardest substance in the human body. From there the acid will continue to eat through the underlying dentin layer until the bacteria and their waste products reach the pulp or the nerve. Left untreated, tooth decay can lead to root infection and eventually loss of the tooth.
To prevent tooth decay:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste. Preferably, brush after each meal and especially before going to bed.
- Clean between your teeth daily with dental floss or interdental cleaners
- Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacks. Avoid carbohydrates such as candy, pretzels and chips, which can remain on the tooth surface. If sticky foods are eaten, brush your teeth soon afterwards.
- Check with your dentist about use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth.
- Ask your dentist about dental sealants (a plastic protective coating) applied to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth (molars) to protect them from decay.
- Drink fluoridated water. At least a pint of fluoridated water each day is needed to protect children from tooth decay.
- Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exam.
Also mouth rinse containing fluoride can help prevent tooth decay, according to the American Dental Association. Researchers are developing new means to prevent tooth decay. One study found that a chewing gum that contains the sweetener xylitol temporarily prevents the growth of bacteria that cause tooth decay.
Finally, because you may be asymptomatic and unaware of the beginning of tooth decay, it is critical that you visit your dentist regularly for a check-up. Some cavities are hard to detect, especially those between the teeth. Sometimes, only x-rays can identify them. Your dentist will also give you a professional cleaning, which is an important part of prevention.
For more information on your oral health contact Dr. Gary Alhadef, DDS. Make an appointment by calling 469-718-0128 or visit our website at www.dallascosmeticdental.com.