Preventing Tooth Decay

Tooth_DecayTooth decay is the second most common health condition in the United States – right behind the common cold! But getting cavities as a result of tooth decay is NOT inevitable. It can be prevented if you understand how cavities form, why maintaining good oral health habits is important, and how your diet impacts whether you’ll suffer from tooth decay.

 How Cavities Form

Cavities form when the bacteria present in plaque on our teeth convert sugar into acid. This de-mineralizes the hard outer surface of the tooth, creating a soft spot. As the acid works its way through the various layers of our tooth, it creates a bigger and bigger hole.

There are three primary types of cavities, defined by where they form on our teeth:

  • Smooth surface cavities, found on the smooth sides of our teeth;
  • Pit and fissure cavities, which form on the chewing surfaces of our teeth;
  • And root cavities, which can form near the roots of our teeth if our gums recede and expose our tooth roots which do not have a protective layer of enamel covering them.

In the earliest stages of tooth decay, there are often no symptoms, and the damage that is occurring may not be visible to the naked eye, although it can frequently be seen on an X-ray or radiograph image.

Why Oral Health Habits Matter

Each part of the oral health routine your dentist recommends protects you from tooth decay. Brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste helps re-mineralize teeth and reduces the amount of plaque on your teeth. Flossing daily cleans the surfaces that a toothbrush can’t reach. Both brushing and flossing keep your gums healthy, which can reduce the chance of tooth-root decay occurring due to gum recession. And regular dental checkups help catch tooth decay problems in their earliest stages. 

What You Eat Impacts Your Tooth Decay Risk – Especially Sugar!

There is a direct correlation between the amount of sugar in a person’s diet and the rate of tooth decay. Some health experts advise taking in as few as 3 percent of your calories per day from sugars. All sugary items you consume count in that figure – including fruit juice, honey and syrup.

“Even if you received many fillings as a child, you don’t have to continue to suffer from tooth decay and cavities as an adult,” says Dr. Carol Ford, a cosmetic dentist with a practice in central Phoenix. “You can proactively reduce your risk of this all-too-common dental malady.”

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