Nothing makes a great first impression like a radiant smile. But your teeth take quite a beating from day to day, chewing through meals and snacks with a pressure of up to 200 pounds per square inch per bite, enduring the harsh tannins of coffee and wine and the acidic fructose of soda, all while trying to keep up appearances. To maintain a healthy smile, you need to commit to a regular oral hygiene routine of brushing twice a day and flossing once to prevent stains and, more importantly, tooth decay.
If you’re not sure how to prevent tooth decay effectively, you’re not alone. A recent study from the U.S. Center for Disease Control found that an eye-popping 91 percent of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 had cavities, and a further 27 percent had untreated tooth decay.
The implications of how to prevent tooth decay are more serious than you might think. If left unchecked, tooth decay can lead to cavities, nerve damage, dental abscess, and tooth loss. And as you can imagine, this can lead to a great deal of pain and expense.
About Tooth Decay
So how does tooth decay start? As fate would have it, the cause of tooth decay is the result of your mouth’s natural biology. Your mouth is home to more than 500 types of bacteria, some helpful, some not. Among those under the not-helpful heading are several types that thrive on sugars and starches and produce acid as a by-product. This acid is called plaque, which you experience as that fuzzy, dirty-mouth sensation.
Left alone, this acid will begin to wear away the enamel at your teeth, eventually exposing the more sensitive layer below. This layer, made up of a tissue called dentin, is connected directly to the tooth nerve through a system of tiny tubes called tubules. When exposed, dentin can become painful and will react negatively to hot, cold, sweet, and sour foods and beverages.
After a couple of weeks, plaque build-up along your gum line will harden into a calcified material called tartar. Tartar provides an ideal breeding ground for plaque, protecting it from being easily removed and allowing it to continue its work on your enamel uninterrupted. Nothing you can do on your own will get rid of tartar. Only your dentist can safely and effectively remove it.
Eventually, tooth decay can reach the inner portion of your teeth, affecting the soft pulp and tooth nerve located below the dentin. At this point, the pain will likely be excruciating, and the gum is likely abscessed. A root canal may be the only way to save the tooth. But if the decay has progressed too far, the tooth will have to be removed.
How to Prevent Tooth Decay
While the above paints a fairly bleak picture, the good news is that tooth decay is almost entirely preventable. All you have to do is commit to a simple oral hygiene routine, and you’ll have years of pain-free smiles. Here’s how to prevent tooth decay:
- Brush twice a day: Spend two minutes a day working over all your teeth with a soft-bristled brush. Don’t skimp. Divide your mouth into four equal sections and give them 30 seconds apiece to ensure you give each area the proper attention. If this seems too long, just think of a few hours in the dentist’s chair, and you’ll see it’s an investment worth making.
- Floss once a day: It’s easy to overlook it, but flossing can do a tremendous amount of good in those hard-to-reach areas. Just because you can’t see what’s happening between your teeth mean that nothing’s going on. Decay between teeth can get a foothold before you’re even aware of it. Again, it’s a minimal investment in time and equipment in exchange for a lifetime of healthy, pain-free teeth.
- Use an antibacterial or fluoride rinse: Consider this your bonus round. A fluoride rinse will help strengthen your enamel; an antibacterial rinse will help fight plaque. Either way, your breath will smell great, too.
- Visit your dentist twice a year: Even your best efforts can benefit from some professional help. A full cleaning at your dentist’s office is like getting your car detailed rather than washing it at home with a hose. You may do a fine job from day to day, but with the right equipment and know-how, a pro can make it shine. Also, some plaque build-up is inevitable; having a dentist remove it every six months is essential to a healthy mouth.
Want to know more about how to prevent tooth decay? Creating Smiles Dental can help. Ensuring that you’re ready for your close-up every day is what we do. From simple cleanings to complex cosmetic procedures, Creating Smiles can help keep your teeth looking and feeling their best. For questions or to make an appointment, call us at 855.980.7766 today.