What Is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is a progressive disease resulting from the interaction of bacteria that naturally occur in your mouth and the sugars and acids consumed in your diet. Bacteria metabolize the foods you eat and drink and produce acid as a byproduct. The acid breaks down the minerals in teeth forming a soft spot or cavity. Your dentist removes the decay and fills the void using a variety of filling materials. If the tooth is significantly broken down it may require a crown to prevent it from fracturing.

To avoid tooth decay adhere to a dental hygiene regimen of brushing twice and flossing once each day, schedule regular dental check-ups, be mindful of what you eat and drink and follow through with recommended fluoride treatments and dental sealants.

Brushing

Brush your teeth twice daily, AFTER breakfast and just before bedtime.  Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. Electric toothbrushes are more effective at cleaning teeth than manual brushes and the doctors highly recommend them. When you brush your teeth, move the brush in small circular motions to reach food particles that may be at or just below the gum line. Hold the toothbrush at an angle and brush slowly and carefully, covering all surfaces of the teeth.  It will take about two minutes to thoroughly brush your teeth.  Brush your tongue and the roof of the mouth before you rinse.

Flossing

For areas between the teeth that a toothbrush cannot reach, dental floss is needed to remove food particles and plaque. It is very important to floss between your teeth each and every day, and is most effective if done at night AFTER brushing.

Pull an 18 inch length of floss from the dispenser.  Wrap the floss around your middle fingers. Guide the floss between all teeth and under the gum line, displacing any food particles and plaque.  Unwrap clean floss from around your fingers as you go so that you have used the floss from beginning to end when you finish.  Also floss behind all of your very last teeth.

Floss at night to make sure your teeth are clean before you go to bed.  When you first begin flossing your gums may bleed a little for a few days, but the bleeding will stop as the gums get healthier. If the bleeding does not stop after the first week, let a staff member know at your next visit. 

 

Regular Dental Visits

s-smile3.jpgIn order to maintain a healthy smile, it is vital to have professional cleanings and regular check-ups. Most people should visit their dentist twice each year (once every six months). At these visits your dentist will examine your teeth, conduct a head and neck cancer exam, provide an evaluation of any dental problems and propose treatment options.

Diet Control

The teeth, bones and soft tissues of the mouth require a healthy, well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from the five food groups helps minimize cavities and other dental problems. Consuming sugary, acidic and starchy foods should be limited, including candy, cookies, chips, crackers, soda, sports drinks and juices. Healthier foods like vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheeses help promote stronger teeth.

Sealants

The grooves that form on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (molars and bicuspids) are extremely difficult to keep clean. As the bacteria react with the food acids form and break down the tooth enamel, causing cavities. Tooth sealants protect these areas by sealing the grooves, preventing bacteria and food particles from accumulating. The sealants are made of a resin material that is applied to a child's molars, premolars and any other area prone to cavities. Sealants last for many years and will be be checked during regular appointments.

Fluoride

Fluoride is a substance that helps teeth become stronger and more resistant to decay. Regularly drinking fluoridated water and daily brushing and flossing will help to lower your cavity rate. Most public water sources contain fluoridated water. Your dentist can evaluate the level of fluoride in your primary drinking water source and recommend fluoride supplements if necessary. There are also many kinds of toothpastes, mouthwashes and even some dental flosses that contain fluoride. A prescription toothpaste with a much higher fluoride content may be recommended for anyone with a high cavity rate.