The Truth About Tooth Decay: A Disease You Can Prevent
Did you know that tooth decay is a preventable disease? Unfortunately, many people don’t take the proper precautions, and end up with damaged, decaying teeth that often have to be removed.
But this doesn’t have to be the case! With proper education, a balanced diet and appropriate oral hygiene and care, we can make sure that everyone in the United States has beautiful, healthy teeth that last a lifetime.
So just what is tooth decay, and how do you prevent it?
Tooth decay results from two major factors: poor diet and neglectful oral hygiene. Each aspect contributes to the problem of tooth decay.
Certain Foods and Drinks Can Damage Your Teeth
Certain foods contain plaque acids that, if they remain on your teeth, degrade the enamel and dentine of your teeth over time. And what’s the worst offender in terms of plaque-causing food?
That’s right: sugar.
Sugar is contained in many foods, occurring both naturally and as an added ingredient. Not all foods that contain sugar are equally damaging to your teeth – but excess sugar consumption has a negative effect on your teeth. Research shows more than half of Americans – 58% - consume more than the recommended limit for sugar, which is less than 10% of daily calories.
Sugar is found naturally in fruit. Fruit has many health benefits, some of which are actually good for your teeth. But high-sugar-content fruits, especially citrus fruits like grapefruits and oranges, can be damaging to the enamel of your teeth if eaten too frequently. And juice is extra packed with sugar, so it’s best to keep juice consumption low.
The worst dental offenders are sugar-added sweets: chocolate, candy, and soft drinks like soda. These foods are packed with sugar, which stays on your teeth long after you eat them. This is true of drinking soda, too: many people are surprised when they realize just how much sugar is contained in soft drinks. A single can of cola, for instance, has nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar! Imagine all that sugar sticking to your teeth and it becomes clear just how bad sugar is for your teeth.
The plaque acids in these sugars attack the enamel in your teeth, gradually breaking it down and creating permanent damage in your mouth. Tooth decay, if not treated and stopped, can lead to toothaches, infections, abscesses, and tooth loss. You may have tooth decay but not experience symptoms, which is why regular visits to a dentist are so important.
To minimize plaque acid damaging your teeth, limit your consumption of sugar-heavy foods and drinks. Trade your soft drinks for water and milk, or sugar-free seltzer if you’re craving a bubbly drink. Keep sugary snacks to a minimum: be sure to check the labels of things like granola bars and cereal, since these can contain surprisingly large amounts of sugar. And make sure to balance fruit with vegetables!
Improper Oral Hygiene Can Lead to Tooth Decay
Plaque acids attack the enamel and dentine of your teeth: because eating sugary foods results in more of these acids in your mouth, they are best to avoid. However, the acids and bacteria in all foods can have adverse effects on your teeth if you fail to care for them properly.
Tooth brushing fights the negative effects of plaque acids. It is critical to brush your teeth at least twice daily: once before bed, and one other time as well. Some people brush in the morning, others after lunch or dinner: whatever you choose, make sure you’re brushing twice. Use fluoride toothpaste to help fight cavities and tooth decay.
And because tooth decay happens wherever food is most likely to stay put, problem areas include between your teeth. That means flossing is critical: getting between your teeth helps protect the whole tooth area from decay. Use a soft dental floss, or floss pick with a handle to help you reach between all your teeth. If you have braces, use a specialized floss threader to get between your brackets and floss between each tooth. Between brushing and bedtime, don’t eat, and drink only water: this will ensure your teeth are devoid of plaque acid throughout the night.
Keep Your Sugar-Intake Low and Your Brushing Regular to Prevent Tooth Decay!
Now you know: too much sugar and improper dental care can both lead to tooth decay. The steps are simple prevent tooth decay: limit sugar intake, brush and floss regularly. It’s also very important to go to the dentist to have your teeth checked, because tooth decay can happen without any noticeable symptoms.