Hundreds of different types of bacteria live on the teeth, gums, and tongue. While some are healthy, some are not. When certain bacteria interact with sugars in foods and beverages, they produce toxic acids that begin to “infect” teeth. Over time, a hole, or cavity, appears in the tooth. Yet, understanding the tooth decay process can help you keep tooth decay at bay.
Throughout the day, your teeth naturally undergo a process of losing and regaining minerals. These are comprised of calcium and phosphate (found in saliva) and fluoride from toothpaste and water. Minerals are important to combat the acids that eat away at tooth enamel. The main culprit here is plaque, which is a sticky film of bacteria. If an individual eats frequently, especially sugary or starchy foods, the tooth enamel loses minerals faster than it can regain them. Day after day, this will result in early tooth decay. A “white spot” on the tooth is one of the first signs that the decay process has begun.
It’s important to know that tooth decay can be reversed or even stopped in its early stages. One key way is to use fluoride. Not only does fluoride replace lost minerals, it can further prevent mineral loss by reducing the ability of bacteria to made acids. Incorporating more fluoride may mean trading a soda or sports drink for fluoridated water. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day (morning and night) is also important. Keep in mind that saliva flow decreases at night, so it’s best not to eat or drink anything between brushing and going to bed.
Another way to keep tooth decay at bay is to simply watch how often you are eating and what you are eating. When you eat often, tooth enamel has less time to repair itself with minerals. Tooth enamel is essentially powerless against acids at this point. In the same way, it’s best to limit candy, pickled vegetables, breads, popcorn, jelly, and sodas.
Above all–see your dentist regularly! Dentists are equipped to come alongside you in the war against tooth decay. Regular examinations allow dentists to thoroughly clean your teeth, removing the colorless plaque, and to coat your teeth with fluoride gel or varnish.
At Grateful Dental, we happily provide general dentistry services with prevention in mind. At your appointment, we’ll check for early signs of decay, and partner with you in achieving the best oral health. Call us to schedule your appointment today.