Our general dentistry in Humble, TX often ask what causes and how to prevent tooth decay. Tooth decay is the invasion of bacteria, which undermines and destroys tooth enamel, the hard outer layer of the teeth.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is a process that occurs over time. When we chew foods containing carbohydrates—sugary, sticky foods and beverages—they can become trapped between the teeth. Poor brushing and flossing habits lead to sticky plaque and the bacteria that eats away at our tooth enamel.
So, foods that cling to the teeth are the main culprits in the fight against tooth decay. When it comes to generating plaque, sugars and starchy cooked foods, including bread, dry cereal, honey, raisins, and hard candy are major promoters of plaque.
Frequent snacking, no matter what type of food, allows more opportunities for the acid in food to cause tooth decay. Anyone looking for the key in how to prevent tooth decay naturally should get in the habit of brushing each time they eat.
If the snacking diet consists of eating several small meals each day to lose weight, brushing and flossing after eating removes the plaque and has a residual benefit. Brushing makes the mouth feel cleaner, so you will be less likely to snack.
Gums that are receding are vulnerable to plaque near the roots of the teeth. The roots are not protected by tooth enamel and are vulnerable both to decay and bone loss.
The Symptoms of Tooth Decay and Cavities
The early stages of tooth decay can be symptom-free. As the decay spreads and the cavity gets larger, the following symptoms can occur:
- toothache pain that is spontaneous or occurs without any apparent cause
- sensitivity on the tooth surface
- pain—mild to sharp—when eating or drinking cold, hot, or sweet food and beverages
- obvious and visible pits or holes in the tooth
- pain when biting down
7 Suggestions on How To Prevent Tooth Decay
1. Practice healthier eating habits. Lay off or cut down on sugary foods that grow the bacteria and sticky plaque on your teeth. Foods that help prevent tooth decay are fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, dairy products. Cheese, milk, and plain yogurt have calcium and phosphates that restore your teeth’s strengthening minerals.
Also, green and black teas can kill or hold back bacteria and keep their acid attacks at bay. Sugarless gum is another great saliva maker and a natural way to remove food particles from your teeth.
2. Floss daily. Flossing is the most effective way to remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth. Flossing reaches where a toothbrush misses and promotes healthy teeth and gums.
3. Use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is a major answer to the problem of how to prevent tooth decay. It helps stop cavities by slowing enamel breakdown and accelerating the tooth’s natural remineralization process. The new enamel will be harder and more resistant to acidity and plaque.
4. Promote and support fluoride supplements. Add fluoride rinse to your daily tooth rinsing routine. Support community efforts in maintaining fluoride in the water supply.
5. Throw out that grungy old toothbrush. Whenever the toothbrush looks worn, and at least every three months, get a new one. The newer the bristles, the more plaque your brush can easily remove.
6. Get regular dental checkups. This advice bears repeating, and you should see your dentist at least twice a year. Schedule a routine exam and cleaning.
7. Ask about sealants. Your molars have deep grooves and pits and can be trouble spots for decay. Ask your dentist whether you are a candidate for a pit and fissure sealant treatment, which can be a barrier against tooth decay.