Tooth decay is a constant problem and has been since the dawn of time. The issue is always food and drink. We have to eat and drink but it could be argued that we live in a time which sees more sugar consumption than any other time in history. Sugar content is always a concern in the food industry and as a society we eat too much and this unfortunately has an impact on our dental health.
So what is tooth decay?
Decay happens because of bacteria in the mouth which uses the sugar in foods you eat to create acid, which subsequently destroys enamel and eventually, if left unchecked, causes cavities. Sugar is unavoidable for most of us and regular brushing and flossing could be enough for most people however, over time, the acid that is created can attack teeth and cause ongoing issues without regular check-ups and treatment.
So how do we identify if we have tooth decay?
The notable symptoms present as the following:
- Severe sensitivity when eating or drinking
- Chronic pain
- Bad breath
- Discoloured teeth
- Cavity growth
The obvious foods to avoid to prevent tooth decay are of course sugary sweets, chocolate, full-sugar drinks, rich cakes and biscuits. Christmas and Easter is a difficult time of year to steer away from harmful foods and drink and it’s certainly tricky to navigate away from these seasonal treats however, as with regular brushing and cleaning, there are ways to manage your dental health during these times of the year. See The Dental Dangers of Christmas Treats
How to resolve Tooth Decay?
Generally, it can be simple to treat tooth decay, with fillings as the most common solution. Most fillings involve drilling away the decayed part of the tooth and using a filling, either silver or composite in most cases, to fill the hole. By cleaning out the decayed area, the filling then sits in this gap and enables you to continue eating and drinking comfortably. Fillings are common and necessary to prevent cavities from growing any bigger.
There may be instances where crowns are required or maybe root canal treatment is needed but this depends on each case and the severity of the cavity.
Oral Hygiene Recommendations
There are many ways to protect your teeth from tooth decay but it can be difficult to completely protect them all the time, with so many foods which create acidity that affects the tooth enamel. These are some of the key suggestions for maintaining your oral health:
- Use recommended toothpaste – most toothpastes contain similar amounts of fluoride but stick to the dentist-approved toothpastes. Fluoride helps to protect against teeth and gums and prevent germs, bad breath and oral complications such as gingivitis.
- Floss – Many people don’t floss when brushing but it can make a huge difference. It enables you to root out debris from between teeth, particularly if you have even small gaps. This debris can result in bad breath and periodontal disease if left unchecked.
- Reduce Sugary Foods and Drink – It’s difficult to cut out your favourite foods but by even slightly reducing your sugar intake, it can impact your dental health in a positive way.
- Use Mouthwash – Mouthwash helps to wash the bacteria out of your mouth. Brushing will help your teeth but your oral health is boosted even more if you use mouthwash to help clean bacteria, whiten teeth and helps fight gum disease. Be sure to use dentist-approved mouthwashes and preferably those that are sugar-free. It’s also worth using mouthwash a good 20 minutes if possible after brushing, or risk rinsing too much of the fluoride from your teeth.
One of the key things anyone can do to help prevent tooth decay or the risk of tooth decay is to practice good brushing techniques. The reason some patients who brush regularly still end up with cavities is not only the foods they eat (although this can only be curbed so much) but it’s primarily because they don’t brush properly. Some patients may only brush for 1 minute (2 minutes can seem a long time) and only catch the loose debris, rather than a thorough clean.
To help further prevent plaque build up many people use Interdental brushing with small brushes which offer the ability to clean between teeth and clear the debris, in addition to thorough brushing through small circular motions with a toothbrush.
Proper technique is important as brushing too hard or at an angle too vigorously can cause damage and result in receding gums.
What About Child Tooth Decay?
There is a growing problem in the UK with many children not having regular dental check-ups and this results in cavities and ongoing tooth decay which can cause problems as they get older. The biggest issue with toddlers in particular is baby bottle related tooth decay because of the juice or milk they drink before bed which creates bacteria overnight.
Other common causes include sweets and sugary drinks which although popular with toddlers, are obviously prime causes for tooth decay.
Water is recommended for bedtime drinks, along with reducing the amount of sweets or sugary foods they consume daily. The acids from these foods cause the enamel to weaken, eventually resulting in cavities.
Dental work on toddlers is something to try and avoid at all costs and so by regular brushing, maintaining their oral hygiene and regular 6 monthly visits to the dentist, you can make sure they keep a good standard of oral hygiene throughout their teenage years and into adulthood.
So How Damaging is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is damaging to your oral health, your future dental health and it can affect your quality of life if left unchecked. Decay leads to fillings but in the worst case scenario, tooth extraction. This can mean either gaps or implants, depending on treatment options and this can impact how you eat, drink and even how your smile looks.
Keeping your mouth healthy is paramount to maintaining a confident smile and your overall health, which could be affected by poor oral hygiene. Noone wants dental surgery and with good brushing, healthier lifestyle and regular check-ups you’ll hopefully never need any.