To keep your mouth healthy, you want to avoid oral health problems such as tooth decay. You may know tooth decay by other names, such as “dental caries” or “cavities”. Tooth decay describes this condition best, as the teeth literally decay when they are not cleaned properly. Tooth decay is the destruction of your tooth enamel, or the hard outer surface of your teeth. This decay happens when plaque is allowed to sit on the teeth too long. With proper oral hygiene habits and seeing your dentist often, you can avoid problems with tooth decay. Learn more about tooth decay, what it does, and why you should avoid it today!
What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is the destruction of your tooth over time. Tooth decay starts with the destruction of your tooth enamel, or the hard, outer layer of your teeth. It then progresses to decay the inner part of your tooth that houses blood vessels and nerves. How does this happen? When you eat, the bacteria in your saliva breaks down food into pieces small enough to be digested. Many of the bacteria in your mouth help the digestive process. However, there is bad bacteria in the mouth that mixes with sugars in the foods you eat to create a sticky substance called plaque.
Plaque is that colorless film that sits on your teeth. You may even be able to see traces of plaque on your teeth at this very moment (if you were to look in a mirror). Plaque is actually an acidic substance and it’s entire goal is to erode your tooth enamel bit by bit. If you don’t brush your teeth, plaque gets extra time to erode the teeth until it is brushed away. Over time, that plaque can create fissures in the teeth, where it eventually seeps insides and decays the inside of your tooth. This leads to tooth decay, otherwise known as a cavity.
Shocking Facts About Tooth Decay
Did you know that tooth decay is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in both children and adults? You may have never thought of tooth decay—or cavities—as a chronic disease, but it is. Cavities affect millions of Americans and others all throughout the world and can increase your symptoms of other chronic diseases. If a patient has tooth decay present, it can automatically increase their risk for gum disease and make symptoms worse with diabetes, heart disease, and more.
What’s the Big Deal?
Tooth decay is literally the destruction of your teeth. Adults only have one set of permanent teeth, so it’s a set to be treasured and taken care of. When oral hygiene habits are not followed, tooth decay can run rampant and start destroying enamel (and the inside of the teeth) all over the mouth. This can lead to costly and lengthy procedures to correct the damage, or lead to tooth loss.
Tooth decay is also caused by plaque, as we mentioned. Plaque can not only attack your teeth, but also your gums, slowly irritating them over time and making them become red and swollen. Your gums will bleed easier, and will eventually recede. This recession causes tooth loss that starts happening all over the mouth as well. So yes, tooth decay IS a big deal. You want to avoid it as much as possible, and you can with just a few minutes of care each and every day!
Avoiding Tooth Decay
We mentioned earlier that plaque must be brushed away so that it doesn’t erode tooth enamel. That means, the teeth must be brushed and brushed often. We follow the American Dental Association’s recommendation of brushing the teeth at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day. However, our patients can brush their teeth as much as they like; the more, the merrier (and the lower the risk you have for cavities). Brushing after every meal is the most ideal, as plaque is removed after every meal before it can cause decay.
Fluoride is also a great tool for strengthening the teeth and protecting them from the damage plaque can cause the teeth. There are even some fluorides that specifically protect against certain bacterias that cause tooth decay. One of the best actions you can take when it comes to combating cavities is to come see us at least twice a year for a comprehensive exam and cleaning. Patients who come to see us often are less likely to have cavities and more likely to keep a healthier mouth for longer. We can detect subtle changes in your teeth and prevent severe tooth decay from occurring. However, that’s only if you come see us twice a year or more.
Tooth decay is chronically prevalent in the United States. However, that doesn’t mean you have to have it in your mouth! Cavities are 100% avoidable by brushing, flossing, keeping your mouth clean, and seeing your dentist frequently. Just a few minutes of care each day can save you from lengthy procedures (and losing your beautiful smile) in the future. If it has been awhile since your last exam and cleaning, call our Niles Family Dentistry office today at (303) 652-0400!