Preventing Tooth Decay

Everyone is susceptible to tooth decay, especially given the American diet that is high in sugar and simple carbohydrates, and high in acidic fluids such as carbonated and alcoholic beverages, sports drinks, coffee, tea, and fruit juices. This article will tell you more about this in a moment.

What Is Tooth Decay?

Don’t be confused by the multiple terms used to refer to tooth decay. The words “caries,” “tooth decay,” “dental cavities,” “dental disease,” and “enamel erosion” all refer to the break down of teeth due to acid produced by oral bacteria. When food debris remains in tight spaces between teeth or in even microscopic defects in your dental enamel, certain bacteria in your mouth will feed on the debris. As bacteria feed on food, they produce an acid to break down the food. Simple sugars in food are their primary source of energy. If food particles containing simple sugars are not cleaned away by regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing, bacteria can colonize and form a sticky substance called “plaque.”

Because plaque contains feeding bacteria, you need to have it professionally removed periodically—at least every six months. If the plaque stays on the teeth too long, it can harden into “tartar” that is more difficult to remove. Not only does this increase the risk of tooth decay, but also irritates your gum tissue, deepening gum pockets and setting up the inflammatory response that can become chronic gum disease. Decades of medical studies have demonstrated that, without a doubt, gum inflammation is a contributing factor in heart disease, diabetes, and many other diseases of the body.

What Damage Can Occur?

Once dental decay takes hold, even in just a small area of a tooth, the decay will expand unless the infected area is cleaned out and the cavity filled with a hard, protective material. Dr. Jay Lopes uses tooth colored dental composite to fill most cavities. If you delay treatment and a large portion of the tooth has been damaged, a larger restoration such as a porcelain crown may be needed. Once gum disease becomes chronic or an advanced infection develops in the gum tissue, such as an abscess, this also requires clinical treatment to prevent damage to tooth roots, gum tissue, and periodontal bone tissue surrounding affected teeth. If gum disease is left untreated, teeth can be lost.

Why Twice a Year Appointments Are Essential in Combating Tooth Decay

In a healthy mouth, twice a year prophylactic dental cleanings and comprehensive oral exams will allow Dr. Lopez and his team to catch problems early. There are three primary benefits to having these periodic appointments. (1) When dental decay, gum inflammation, and other oral health problems are spotted early, treatment is less extensive, and less costly. (2) We will have the opportunity to advise you on home care that will improve your oral health before the problems progress more. (3) You will have the opportunity to tell us about your concerns and to ask us your questions, so you become well informed about changes in your mouth that affect both your oral health and systemic health.

Lowering Your Risk for Tooth Decay with Improved Home Care

Prevention of tooth decay includes regular cleaning of your teeth, with at least twice a day brushing with fluoride toothpaste and once a day thorough flossing. Electronic toothbrushes have been demonstrated to be more effective in cleaning teeth than manual ones. Water flossing is a good habit to develop as an adjunct to string flossing or as a replacement for string flossing if you are one of the individuals who dislikes string flossing and does not do it regularly.

A diet low in sugar and rinsing your mouth with water after drinking acidic beverages does make a big difference in lowering your risk of tooth decay. If you frequently snack, clean your mouth after snacking. If you are away from home and unable to brush, then chew xylitol gum to increase saliva flow and wash away food particles, as well as neutralize the pH level of your mouth.

Prevent Tooth Decay with CariFree® Oral Care Products

For patients with a history of caries, we offer CariFree® rinse and CariFree® gel, as a system, for helping prevent cavities. Two times a day, you will rinse and spit; then, you will brush with the gel. These are elevated pH products that neutralize decay-causing acids. They also contain nano-hydroxapatite and fluoride to re-mineralize tooth enamel.

Not every patient needs CariFree®. But, if you have increased risk factors for caries, our experience is that CariFree® will make a significant difference. Factors that can put you at higher risk for caries include:

  • A bacterial-biofilm imbalance
  • Dry mouth (inadequate saliva)
  • A sugary or acidic diet
  • A habit of frequent snacking
  • Poor home care
  • A habit of using tobacco
  • Diabetes or other health concerns that affect the mouth

In addition to the treatment rinse and gel, the CarieFree® product line includes a mouth spray and xylitol gum. When you cannot brush because you are away from home, then chewing gum with xylitol will increase saliva flow and help wash away food particles. It will also keep a neutral pH level in your mouth and help prevent bacteria from sticking to your teeth. Like the gum, the spray neutralizes acids in the mouth and provides dry mouth relief as it freshens your breath.

If you live in the Tucson area, are concerned about your oral health, and want to never have a cavity again, give us a call. We are eager to help you and can supply you with the advice and CariFree® products that will make cavities an occurrence of the past. Call Jay Lopez, D.D.S. to transform your oral health and smile!