Let’s Fight Tooth Decay Together
Tooth decay is a process that leads to disease and cavities. The same process also irritates and damages gums and can eventually cause gum recession, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. It is important to understand the process and keep up with preventative practices to fight tooth decay.
A vital part of any good oral hygiene practice is staying current on annual checkups with a dentist. If it has been a while or you are due for a cleaning and examination, please call our dentist in Seattle.
First the facts: What is tooth decay and how does it get started?
Tooth decay begins with bacteria. Each person has a blend of beneficial, neutral, and harmful bacteria in his or her mouth at all times. The harmful bacteria feed on sugar and starches and create an acidic by-product. Harmful bacteria also create a sticky surface called plaque which helps it stay in place.
When a colony of bacteria builds up, the acid it produces becomes out of balance and begins to do damage. Eventually, the acid eats through the protective layer of enamel and into the pulp where it can infect the inner dentin, root, and even the bone. Once this decay has been cleaned away by a dentist, the space left open in a tooth is called a cavity.
Preventing Cavities: What You Can Do
There are some things you can do to prevent tooth decay and the formation of cavities. Being vigilant with good, daily hygiene, modifying your diet, and keeping up with professional dental cleaning are the major paths to keeping your mouth healthy.
- Eating Right – Harmful bacteria feed on sugar, starch foods, and carbohydrates. Keeping these foods down
to a minimum will help avoid feeding bacteria. Sugary drinks, like soda and even fruit juice, not only offer sugar as fuel for the bacteria, they are also acidic. Acid is the enemy of tooth enamel, so cutting back or eliminating sugary drinks is an important part of good oral hygiene.
- Regular Brushing, Flossing, and Rinsing – Brushing teeth removes bacteria and reduces the buildup of plaque. If you do eat a high-carb or high-sugar meal, it is a good idea to brush your teeth afterward. You should brush at least twice a day, in the morning and before bedtime, and floss once a day. Flossing and rinsing with mouthwash remove food particles in tight spaces where brushing can miss them. Using mouthwash to rinse has the added benefit of killing bacteria.
- Visit the Dentist – Because plaque is clear, it is hard to notice. A professional cleaning by a hygienist removes the buildup on your teeth and gums, helping avoid decay and cavities. A dentist will diagnose any disease of the teeth, gums, bone, and soft tissue of the mouth. He or she can apply preventative measures to keep diseases like gingivitis from progressing. The dentist will also clean any areas that have been breached by acid and bacteria and fill in the cavity left behind to prevent further decay.
Timothy J. Butson, DMD, MSD offers preventative services for tooth decay as well as examinations that can diagnose concerns. Some conditions, such as gingivitis are reversible and can be treated before they turn into a more serious condition. Come into our downtown Seattle office and let us help you prevent disease and decay.