When people think about their health, they don’t usually factor oral care into their consideration. As a result, fewer people are interested in taking steps to prevent tooth decay. Florida Health mentions that in the 2014-2015 period, the state saw 20.8% of children between the ages of three to five years present with symptoms of tooth decay. While the number isn’t a majority, it still suggests something severely wrong with how parents deal with tooth decay.
Even adults suffer from the ravages of tooth decay. The Centers for Disease Control suggests that 31.6% of adults between the ages of twenty and forty-four suffer from untreated cavities. With all the advancements we have available to society today, there shouldn’t be these kinds of numbers when it comes to untreated dental caries. Learning how to prevent tooth decay is in everyone’s best interest.
What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay, also known as cavities or dental caries, is a disease that happens throughout the world. The Mayo Clinic mentions that it is among the world’s most common health problems. Cavities can lead to the breakdown to the teeth itself, sometimes forming holes through the tooth. If left untreated, they could lead to loss of the entire tooth. As if that wasn’t bad enough, tooth decay spreads between nearby teeth. The ease by which neighboring teeth start breaking down makes it difficult to contain the problem.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
Teeth don’t just start to get holes by themselves. According to Live Science, tooth decay is primarily due to two factors: the number of bacteria that live in your mouth, and the level of starch and sugar in your diet. You might think it gross that you have bacteria living in your mouth, but everyone does. It’s nothing to feel ashamed about. But there are times when these bacteria get out of hand. The harmful bacteria, in this case, are the ones that live on the plaque on your teeth.
Typically, your teeth have a hard, white portion (the enamel) that helps you to chew food. But enamel sometimes gets covered up with plaque, a sort of film that is white like your teeth but isn’t good for them. When you eat sugar or starchy things, the bacteria in the plaque try to feast off what you’re eating. When this happens, the bacteria produce acids that end up breaking down the teeth they’re living on. The result is that they form holes in your teeth – the cavities we don’t want!
Symptoms of a Cavity
Cavities are a strange sickness. When you have the flu, you get a fever or start sneezing and coughing. With dental caries, there’s nothing so simple to warn you about there being a hole in your teeth. Before you can consider how to prevent tooth decay, you have to know that it’s happening. Cavities have some subtle warning signs that tell us it’s happening. The downside is those symptoms don’t let us know how much of our tooth is already gone. According to the British National Health Service, the common signs of tooth decay may include:
- An unpleasant taste within your mouth.
- Bad breath.
- Brown, grey, or black spots showing up on your teeth.
- Your teeth may begin to hurt when eating something sweet, cold, or hot.
- Toothaches, which may be continuous pain from your decayed tooth or the occasional sharp pain without any cause or warning.
These symptoms are just warnings signs, and while they make a good case for having a cavity, there’s no way to be sure unless you consult a dentist. Preventative dentistry deals with taking care of teeth before this starts happening to them. But how can you prevent tooth decay when you don’t even know it’s going on?
Simple Ways to Implement Preventative Measures
If the symptoms of tooth decay show up, then you may need to consult a dentist in Orlando, Florida to figure out if you have a cavity. However, even before those symptoms show up, you can try to prevent tooth decay. Very Well Health notes a handful of tricks that can make a significant difference when attempting to stop tooth decay. These include:
Brushing and Flossing Your Teeth Regularly
Regular brushing and flossing ensure that there is no leftover residue after meals. Ideally, you should brush and floss after each meal and before bed. The best toothbrush for the job is one that has a small head and soft bristles. For flossing, make sure you get into the space between teeth. You can’t get cavities if there’s no food for the bacteria to try to digest.
Regular Visits to Your Dentist
Many people have an innate, irrational fear of dentists. These fears may stem from horrible occurrences in the past or a bad reputation from dentists. There shouldn’t be any reason for being afraid of the dentist. Regular visits allow you to know if your teeth are at risk of having cavities within them, and what you can do about it. You should consider them the same way you consider visiting your doctor for yearly checkups. Unless you have a specific problem, visiting a dentist once a year should be enough. However, if problems develop, the dentist may request a more regular visitation period.
Healthy Eating (Lower the Intake of Sugary and Starchy Foods)
Sugar and starch are what plaque bacteria love to digest. By removing them from your diet, you give them less opportunity to break down your tooth enamel. The University of Massachusetts mentions that artificial sweeteners tend to be responsible for fewer cavities.
Use Mouth Rinses
Mouth rinses come in two main types as the American Dental Association informs us – cosmetic and therapeutic. Cosmetic mouth rinses don’t provide any health benefits, but therapeutic mouth rinses help to control the formation and plaque. Children below the age of six should not use mouthwash at all. It isn’t formulated or tested for kids at this age, and using it is taking a risk.
If You Need to Chew Gum, Use the Sugarless Kind
Sugarless gum sometimes uses artificial sweeteners. They don’t impact the teeth as severely as sugar-based sweeteners. The journal Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dentistry reports that the artificial sweetener xylitol might help control the formation of cavities. Choosing gum that uses xylitol as its sweetener may be a step in the right direction.
Preventative Dentistry for the Family
These steps won’t guarantee that you won’t get cavities at all. However, they give you an excellent chance to avoid them for most of your life. It’s not just your responsibility to prevent cavities from forming. Your dentist also needs to do his or her part to make sure you don’t get them. Serene Dental Center understands that prevention is better than cure when it comes to cavities. We educate our patients on what they should do to take care of their oral health. It’s a partnership we take seriously. Do you think you might have cavities? Call us today to book an appointment to check it out!