Tooth decay forms whenever plaque and bacteria develop on teeth, eroding tooth enamel and weakening the tooth’s natural defenses. Decay is especially prevalent in children as the shape of their teeth and poor oral hygiene habits make it difficult to prevent. However, by maintaining a daily oral hygiene regimen, visiting the dentist regularly and applying dental sealants to your teeth, decay can be completely avoidable. Follow these tips to protect your teeth from tooth decay and keep them healthy for years to come!
What Is Tooth Decay?
Teeth are the hardest substances in our bodies but they can deteriorate under the constant attack of tooth decay. Tooth decay destroys the outer layer of teeth, called enamel. Plaque is the main culprit for decay as it sits on our teeth after eating and drinking, allowing acid to build up and eat through the enamel. Since plaque is so sticky, it must be brushed off each day to keep decay from forming. Once decay eats through the enamel, holes can appear in the tooth. These holes are referred to as cavities, and when left untreated, can continue to grow until the entire tooth is destroyed. Those who eat sugary foods, drinks and candies are at a higher risk of developing cavities since plaque feed off of sugar. When there is more sugar in the mouth, there are more opportunities for acid to attack teeth.
Children are most likely to develop cavities due to the shape of their teeth and irregular oral hygiene practices, but adults can still develop them, as well. Older adults experience more cavities than others as their gums recede, leaving their tooth roots exposed to plaque. Old fillings can also lead to cavities if they’ve fractured, letting bacteria into their crevices where decay can form.
Recognizing Signs & Symptoms of Decay
Many patients don’t even know they have a cavity until they are examined during a dental checkup. Obvious signs of cavities include tooth pain and sensitivity when eating or drinking hot or cold items, but some patients will develop pus around an infected tooth, which signifies a serious infection. Not all cavities are painful, so patients can have one or more for long periods of time without knowing it. For this reason, even if you have a good oral hygiene schedule and feel healthy, it’s still important to have regular dental checkups to ensure that nothing is developing invisibly within your teeth.
Since cavities are essentially holes within the tooth, sometimes you can actually see these holes, or pits, on your tooth. Many times, however, a dental X-ray will be necessary to identify any holes that are farther down within the tooth. Dental X-rays are nothing to be afraid of; with the handheld devices that many offices use, there is 90% less radiation that you’re exposed to compared to conventional X-rays. Digital X-rays help dentists view what is going on below the gum line and diagnose your oral health needs quickly and accurately.
How To Keep Your Teeth Healthy
The first step that you should take to avoid decay is committing to a daily oral hygiene schedule. Brushing and flossing your teeth each day will get rid of the plaque that’s there and keep your mouth fresh. Make sure that you’re brushing with fluoride toothpaste, which will strengthen your tooth enamel and help fight off decay. To prevent excess sugar from caking up on your teeth, limit the number of sugary snacks and drinks you eat each day. Try and eat nutritious meals that include plenty of fruits and vegetables to increase your intake of teeth-strengthening vitamins, like Vitamin A, D, C and calcium. Children should also receive dental sealants to be placed on their back molars where cavities like to develop. Dental sealants are plastic coatings that cover the pits of teeth so that food particles and plaque can’t accumulate there. Since kids are so vulnerable to cavities, it’s important that their baby and permanent teeth receive sealants early on. Mouthwash should be used, as well, to keep your breath fresh and kill bacteria in your mouth. Brushing and flossing removes most bacteria, but mouthwash finishes the job.
The Importance of Dental Checkups
Your at-home oral hygiene goals are important, but don’t forget about your regular dental checkups. For most kids and adults, checkups should be every six months to monitor teeth movement and provide a deep cleaning of the mouth. During your appointment, your medical history will be reviewed, an exam will be performed and each tooth will be cleaned. Your gums, gingival pockets, and other soft tissues in the mouth will be examined for swelling, redness and infection. Your upper and lower jaws will also be tested to see how they come together and identify any bite issues. Depending on your needs, the dentist may take digital X-rays of your teeth to look at your tooth roots and see whether wisdom teeth are growing in or not. Oral cancer screenings are also included in the checkup to make sure that there are no areas of concern. It’s very rare to develop oral cancer, but since it’s fast-moving and deadly, dentists are required to check for it.
Avoid Tooth Decay With Our Help!
At Mountain Aire Dentistry, Dr. Berry and his team are experienced with treating tooth decay and giving patients their confidence and smiles back. Cavities can develop quickly and should be treated with the best tools and technology available, which our office has. If you have a toothache or are due for a checkup, call our office today at (303) 731-7755 to schedule an appointment. Your oral health needs are our priority, so call today to get your health back on track!