Tooth decay and gum disease are the most common dental diseases amongst children and adults. Both tooth decay and gum disease can result in tooth loss and bone loss, and both are also two of the most easily prevented diseases. Tooth decay starts with the erosion of your tooth enamel and can lead to holes in your teeth, called cavities.
If left untreated, these cavities can worsen and the entire tooth becomes compromised, resulting in an infection that can spread to your gums, root canal, and jawbone.
What Goes on Inside our Mouths?
Our mouths are full of hundreds of different types of bacteria that live on our teeth, gums, tongue and other places in our mouths. Some bacteria are helpful, while some can be harmful such as those that play a role in the tooth decay process.
Tooth decay is the result of an infection with certain types of bacteria that use sugars in food to make acids, which, over time, can make a cavity in the tooth.
Whenever we eat or drink something that contains sugar or starch, the bacteria use them to produce acids, which begin to eat away at the tooth’s hard outer surface, or enamel.
However, the minerals in our saliva, such as calcium and phosphate (plus fluoride from toothpaste, water, and other sources), helps enamel repair itself by replacing minerals lost during an “acid attack.”
Our teeth go through this natural process or tug of war of losing minerals and regaining minerals.
While not curable, you can try to stop it early with a good oral care regimen. Here are some tips to help prevent cavities:
- Buying an Oral-B electric toothbrush to help remove plaque better and help prevent cavities from forming in the first place. Good oral and dental hygiene can help you avoid cavities and tooth decay.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day and ideally after every meal with fluoride toothpaste. Brush after eating or drinking, using fluoride-containing toothpaste. It’s also important to be aware that enamel is able to repair itself by using saliva’s minerals, and this is greatly assisted by the fluoride sources like toothpaste.
- Rinse your mouth regularly, and if your dentist feels you have a high risk of developing cavities, he or she may recommend that you use a mouth rinse with fluoride.
- Visit your dentist regularly, and get professional teeth cleanings. That, as well as regular oral exams, can help prevent problems or spot them early.
- Consider dental sealants, which is a protective plastic coating applied to the chewing surface of the back teeth. It seals off grooves and crannies that tend to accumulate food, protecting tooth enamel from plaque and acid. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends sealants for all school-age children. Sealants may last for several years, but they need to be checked regularly.
- Avoid frequent snacking and sipping, and whenever you eat or drink beverages other than water; try to rinse your mouth afterward. You help your mouth bacteria create acids that can destroy tooth enamel if you snack or drink throughout the day. Thus, putting your teeth under constant attack.
- Eat tooth-healthy foods, since some foods and beverages are better for your teeth than others. Avoid foods that get stuck in the pits of your teeth for long periods, and brush soon after eating them. Foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables and unsweetened coffee, tea, and sugar-free gum increase saliva flow and help wash away food particles.
- Consider treatments with periodic fluoride treatments, especially if you aren’t getting enough fluoride through fluoridated drinking water and other sources. Your dentist may recommend custom trays that fit over your teeth for application of prescription fluoride if your risk of tooth decay is very high.
- Pay attention to your mouth and gums. Make a note of when your gums look inflamed or if you spot blood while brushing, and don’t ignore aches and pains. Check with your dentist to make sure it’s not a symptom of something severe.
- If you’re especially vulnerable to tooth decay, because of a medical condition, your dentist may recommend special antibacterial mouth rinses or other treatments to help cut down on harmful bacteria colony in your mouth.
- Chewing xylitol-based gum along with prescription fluoride and an antibacterial rinse can help reduce the risk of tooth decay or cavities.
Mouth Jewelry and Oral Piercings
There are risks associated with the mouth jewelry since infection, broken teeth, choking on broken jewelry and swelling of the tongue and mouth can occur from this jewelry. You must be vigilant about keeping the area clean and resisting the urge to click the jewelry against your teeth. Remember to seek treatment immediately if signs of infection appear.
Similarly, oral piercings can have adverse effects on the health of your tongue, lips, cheeks, and uvula. Problems associated with aspirated jewelry, speech impairment, fractured teeth and gingival recession can occur.