No one wants to hear they have a cavity in their tooth! While it is generally a simple procedure to correct, a cavity is a sign of tooth decay. For some, it begs the question, what is tooth decay, really? Or perhaps more importantly, what can I do to fight tooth decay?
What Is Tooth Decay:
In order to understand how to prevent it, you first must understand what tooth decay is and the parts of the tooth that tooth decay can affect. Your teeth are made up of three layers. The hard outer layer is called enamel, which protects your teeth. The middle layer is called dentin and the innermost layer is called the pulp and is made up of blood vessels and nerve fibers.
There are natural bacteria in your mouth. The organisms live in the sticky substance called plaque, which is always forming on your teeth and gums. The bacteria feed on sugars or carbohydrates in the foods that you eat. Tooth decay is the damage that can occur when bacteria break down sugars in your mouth. The byproduct of this natural reaction is acid, which in turn eat away at your teeth. This can lead to a hole in your tooth called a cavity. If untreated, the cavity will decay past the enamel and into the dentin and pulp. The deeper the decay the more pain associated with the cavity.
Simple ways to prevent tooth decay in your mouth:
- Brush and floss your teeth and gums twice a day. This will remove much of the plaque that builds up on teeth, preventing bacteria from creating acids in your mouth.
- Drink lots of water to help flush away any residual food particles. Think of a glass of water like a little bath for your mouth.
- Avoid foods that are high in sugars and carbohydrates, which only feed the bacteria in your mouth.
- Drink tap water when possible. Fluoride is added to the water by many public water supplies and has drastically helped to reduce tooth decay in the U.S. the rise of bottled water, however, has undone some of these gains. In addition to being good for the environment, tap water can be good for your teeth.
- Avoid dry mouth. This can be hard if dry mouth is caused by conditions such as xerostomia, certain medicines or even by breathing through your mouth. Saliva is the body’s way of fighting plaque and a chronic dry mouth can prevent this natural defense. Talk to your dentist about options for combating chronic dry mouth.
- Don’t smoke or use smokeless tobacco products. These can exacerbate tooth decay.
- Schedule regular checkups with your dentist. Your dentist is your best partner in preventing tooth decay!
If you feel a cavity coming on or maybe you are just overdue for a check-up, call All Smiles Dental today. We can get you on the road to a healthy and pain free mouth!