Did you know that next to the common cold, tooth decay is the disease that affects the most people worldwide? Over the course of human history, tooth decay has led to not just pain and loss of teeth, but to serious illnesses. Although we’ve made great strides in preventing tooth decay, it still affects more than 25% of children between the ages of two and five, and approximately 50% of adolescents between twelve and fifteen. Tooth decay, however, is very preventable. When you work with us, you can take the measures that are needed to protect your teeth and those of the people you love.
It’s important to understand, of course, that once tooth decay begins, there’s no quick fix that’s going to work for everyone in every situation. On the contrary, looking after your teeth involves preventive maintenance so that you can keep your natural teeth throughout your life. The cornerstones of preventive maintenance are making sure to follow proper oral hygiene habits, and to see us regularly for checkups and cleaning.
If you’ve been in the habit of visiting us, most likely you’re already acquainted with the ways in which we remove tartar and plaque from your teeth. You’re familiar with ultrasonic scalers and other, hand-held instruments that we use to give you a good cleaning. After your cleaning, we check your teeth for decay, and fill any cavities that may have occurred.
Even more can be done to guard against tooth decay. Poor diet can be a factor that contributes to dental problems. So can poor brushing techniques. And of course, it’s possible that you could benefit from additional treatments. Today, we know a lot more than we did in years gone by about the causes of tooth decay and the best methods of treatment, so we can create more individualized treatment plans for preventing decay. Tooth decay is much like any other disease – some people are simply more at risk than others, so our focus is on identifying your risk factors and then determining a course of action that will work best for you.
How Does Decay Start?
It might seem strange, thinking of your mouth as an ecosystem, and yet that’s exactly what it is – it’s home to a variety of living organisms, including both good and bad bacteria. The harmful (or pathogenic) bacteria react to certain sugars, and produce acids that attack your teeth, causing mineral loss. A diet that’s high in acidic foods can also result in mineral loss. However, when the conditions are favorable, your body works to undo the damage that’s caused by those harmful bacteria.
What we try to do as dental professionals is to help you to encourage beneficial processes in your mouth. That’s why we’re always telling you to brush and floss regularly. Ensuring that you get enough fluoride, and reducing the amount of acidic foods you consume will also help, but even then, some people are going to be more predisposed than others to tooth decay.
Taking Extra Steps
If you’re naturally prone to tooth decay, we can show you how to brush effectively, and recommend special toothpastes and dental rinses. We can also provide treatments like topical fluoride application. If you’re not being exposed to enough fluoride in your drinking water, a topical application can help to prevent decay.
You might also consider nutritional counseling, and anti-bacterial treatments.
Perhaps your child is unusually prone to tooth decay – in such cases, a dental sealant can be applied. It’s a layer of plastic resin, nearly invisible, that we apply to the chewing surfaces of your child’s back teeth. It’s a non-invasive treatment that fills in the fissures and depressions that occur naturally in the teeth and can hold harmful bacteria.
Ultimately, tooth decay is very preventable, so why not pay us a visit? We can work together to stop tooth decay from adversely affecting your health or that of the people you love.
Text Copyright © 2015 Louis K. Cheung DDS PS – All rights reserved. Images used under license from Dear Doctor, Inc.