Tips to Reduce The Risk of Tooth Decay for Healthy Teeth and Gums
If you're like most people, you don't exactly look forward to facing a dentist's drill. So wouldn't it be better to prevent cavities before they begin?
Your mouth is a window into what's going on in the rest of your body, often serving as a helpful vantage point for detecting the early signs and symptoms of systemic disease — a disease that affects or pertains to your entire body, not just one of its parts. Systemic conditions such as AIDS or diabetes, for example, often first become apparent as mouth lesions or other oral problems. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms.
Even babies can have problems with dental decay when parents do not practice good feeding habits at home. Putting your baby to sleep with a bottle in his or her mouth may be convenient in the short term - but it can be harmful to the baby's teeth. When the sugars from juice or milk remain on a baby's teeth for hours, they may eat away at the enamel, creating a condition known as bottle mouth. Pocked, pitted, or discolored front teeth are signs of bottle mouth. Severe cases result in cavities and the need to pull all the front teeth until the permanent ones grow in. Parents and child care providers should also help young children develop set times for drinking during the day as well because sucking on a bottle throughout the day can be equally damaging to young teeth.
Taking good care of your mouth, teeth and gums is a worthy goal in and of itself. Good oral and dental hygiene can help prevent bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease — and can help you keep your teeth as you get older.
Researchers are also discovering new reasons to brush and floss. A healthy mouth may help you ward off medical disorders. The flip side? An unhealthy mouth, especially if you have gum disease, may increase your risk of serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, poorly controlled diabetes and preterm labor.
This test identifies areas of dental plaque, which shows how thoroughly (or not) you are brushing and flossing your teeth. Plaque is a sticky substance, composed of millions of bacteria, which collects around and between teeth. It is the major cause of tooth decay and gum disease( gingivitis) and is hard to see because it is whitish colored, like teeth.
The 20 primary or baby teeth are replaced, beginning at about 6 years, with 32 adult or permanent teeth. Injury to teeth, especially permanent teeth, can be painful and serious.
If you indulge your sweet tooth too much this holiday season, things could go sour in terms of your dental health, warns the American Dental Association (ADA).
When bacteria (plaque) on your teeth come into contact with sugar or starch, they produce acid that attacks the teeth. Over time, this can cause tooth enamel to break down and lead to cavities and other problems.
"If you don't bother to properly clean your teeth, the results might be tooth decay, gum disease and possible tooth loss," Dr. Matthew Messina, and ADA consumer adviser and dentist from the Cleveland area, said in a prepared statement.
He noted that certain kinds of sweet treats are worse than others.
"The stickier things are, like fruit cakes and gummy bears, the less likely they'll be washed out from between the teeth by saliva. Any kind of candy that sticks to your teeth is more harmful than a chocolate bar that gets washed away," Messina said.
The length of time food remains in your mouth is another important factor.
"Cough drops, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth for a long period. Unless they are sugar-free products, the teeth are subjected to acid attacks while the product remains in the mouth," Messina said.
Some tips on how to enjoy holiday sweets while reducing the risk of tooth decay:
Consume sugary foods with meals. Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
Limit between-meal snacks. If you do need a snack, choose nutritious foods and consider chewing sugarless gum after your snack. Sugarless gum increases saliva flow.
Drink more water.
Oral hygiene is necessary to prevent cavities. This consists of regular professional cleaning (every 6 months), brushing at least twice a day, and flossing at least daily. X-rays may be taken yearly to detect possible cavity development in high risk areas of the mouth
Chewy, sticky foods (such as dried fruit or candy) are best if eaten as part of a meal rather than as a snack. If possible, brush the teeth or rinse the mouth with water after eating these foods. Minimize snacking, which creates a constant supply of acid in the mouth. Avoid constant sipping of sugary drinks or frequent sucking on candy and mints.
Dental sealants can prevent cavities. Sealants are thin plastic-like coating applied to the chewing surfaces of the molars. This coating prevents the accumulation of plaque in the deep grooves on these vulnerable surfaces. Sealants are usually applied on the teeth of children, shortly after the molars erupt. Older people may also benefit from the use of tooth sealants.
Fluoride is often recommended to protect against dental caries. It has been demonstrated that people who ingest fluoride in their drinking water or by fluoride supplements have fewer dental caries. Fluoride ingested when the teeth are developing is incorporated into the structure of the enamel and protects it against the action of acids.Topical fluoride is also recommended to protect the surface of the teeth. This may include a fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash. Many dentists include application of topical fluoride solutions (applied to a localized area of the teeth) as part of routine visits.
The American Dental Association recommends that your child's first visit to the dentist take place by his or her first birthday.Such visits can help in the early detection of potential problems. Your child also will become accustomed to visiting the dentist, which means he or she will have less fear as he or she grows older.
Discoloration can also occur as a result of prolonged use of antibiotics, as some children's medications contain a large amount of sugar. Parents should encourage children to brush after they take their medicine, particularly if the prescription will be long-term.
Use a soft-bristled brush — it's gentler on the gums.
Place your brush at an angle against your teeth, and use short back-and-forth motions to clean your teeth. Also clean the inside and chewing surfaces of the teeth and your tongue.
Replace your brush every three months.
When you floss, gently ease the floss between your teeth. Then pull the ends of the floss against the front and back surface of a tooth so that the floss forms a "C" as it wraps around the tooth. Gently pull the floss from the gumline to the top of the tooth to scrape off plaque. Remember to floss the backs of your teeth and to expose fresh floss between your fingers as you progress through your teeth.
Some toothpastes claim to whiten teeth. There's nothing wrong with using whitening toothpastes as long as they also contain fluoride and ingredients that fight plaque and tartar. But these toothpastes alone don't contain much in the way of whitening ingredients and probably won't noticeably change the color of your teeth.
Good oral hygiene doesn't have to be difficult. Get in the habit of taking a few simple steps each day and seeing your dentist regularly. You'll be setting yourself up for a brighter smile and for better overall health, too.