Tooth Decay

Despite its prevalence, we don’t want any patient to think they’re destined for tooth decay, even if they’ve had a hard time avoiding it in the past. There are a lot of factors that contribute to your oral health, but be assured that at our practice you’re in the hands of compassionate decay prevention experts.

Anyone who’s been to the dentist knows we have a lot more tools than just a toothbrush and floss for caring for your teeth. In addition to removing plaque, our arsenal of hand tools and handpieces are designed to remove hardened deposits called tartar or calculus that are hard for you to remove yourself using just a toothbrush and floss. During a cleaning visit, we also check your teeth thoroughly for existing signs of decay. If we find a problem, we will talk to you about fixing it as soon as possible with a filling, a crown, or another treatment if the decay is more severe. Of course, our favorite outcome is when we find no decay at all. Understanding how decay starts is a great way to solidify your understanding of how to prevent it.

What Is Tooth Decay?

Statistically speaking, tooth decay could be considered the second most common illness humans suffer from (number one is the common cold). If left untreated, tooth decay can lead to pain and more severe problems such as abscesses or systemic infections, not to mention tooth loss. Data indicates that almost every adult has had tooth decay at some point. Our goal is to reverse this trend, at the very least in our local community. Educating our patients about how tooth decay happens and how to prevent it is how we hope to accomplish this.

One myth seems to have emerged from how we were taught about tooth decay and cavities as children: avoid sugar and you can avoid cavities. The reality is there is no single thing you can do to prevent tooth decay. Rather, preventing cavities is a collection of good habits, maintenance and professional attention. The steps for a decay-free smile, in no particular order, are a healthy diet, a thorough daily hygiene routine and seeing us regularly for teeth cleanings and checkups.

Causes of Tooth Decay

Just like other parts of your body, your mouth is populated by both good and bad bacteria. When you don’t care for yourself properly, you can end up creating an environment where the bad (i.e., pathogenic) bacteria get the upper hand. In particular, these bacteria thrive when there is plenty of sugar for them to consume, which they digest and excrete as acid. This acid is what damages your teeth, eating into your tooth enamel and the softer dentin layer underneath. Eating highly acidic foods (lemons, tomatoes, soft drinks, etc.) can also weaken and even wear away your teeth.

Keeping Your Mouth Healthy

If your mouth is in an ideal condition, your body’s own immune responses and mechanisms, such as healthy saliva that contains tooth-building minerals, repair damage and keep bad bacteria from getting out of control. The goal of preventing decay is to keep your mouth in this healthy, balanced condition at all times. If you brush and floss correctly, get enough fluoride, limit your consumption of acidic or sugary foods and visit the dentist regularly, this should be easy for you.

Guidance On Preventing Tooth Decay

However, some patients have a tougher time preventing tooth decay and we are happy to provide guidance. If you’ve had a few run-ins with cavities, you may need a refresher course on your brushing or flossing techniques, which we’re happy to provide at your next visit. You can also boost the effectiveness of your at-home hygiene with special toothpastes, mouth rinses, toothbrushes or floss options. We’re happy to recommend these types of products if we think they will benefit you.

Nutritional counseling is another option to ensure decay-causing bacteria doesn’t get too much fuel. In children whose hygiene skills are still developing, sealing the deepest grooves on their back teeth can help prevent decay until they’re older and better at caring for their own teeth.

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