Nobody gets tooth decay overnight. It’s a gradual process, a wearing away of enamel until damage is done. For the uninitiated, the first signs might not be apparent. In kids, the problem begins with white, chalky marks that form around the gum line. Over time, they can turn into soft, brown spots that slowly creeps towards the chewing area. And without proper intervention, they can lead to a bevy of complications, which include gum disease, infection disease, and the like. How, then, can you stop tooth decay from spreading? And how do you prevent tooth decay in the first place?
The key, as it turns out, is to stop it in its tracks. Oral bacteria is the prime suspect when it comes to tooth decay, so limiting its numbers and what it can do helps nip the damage in the bud. Moreover, when done early on, it might be able to reverse the process altogether.
But how, exactly? Here’s what you can do to prevent tooth decay:
Floss before you brush
Of course, there are ways to make your tooth-brushing habit all-the-more powerful. In this case, it’s flossing before you brush. Sometimes, bacteria and food can build up between your teeth. And these crevices are hard to reach with a toothbrush. By flossing before you brush, you loosen up this icky build-up, making it easier to remove once you brush.
Brush your teeth regularly
When your oral bacteria overrun your teeth, you’re more likely to get tooth decay. S. mutans—the bacteria which primarily drive tooth decay—isn’t so good at colonizing teeth surfaces on its own. There must be enough sugar for it to feed on to make it potent. When you brush your teeth regularly, two things happen. For one, you scrub away the bacterial build-up from your teeth, which delays S. mutans’ progress. For another, you help clean away any lingering sugars that can fuel it.
Moral of the story? Brush your teeth twice a day. Especially after you eat.
Say no to sugary snacks
As mentioned earlier, the decay-causing S. mutans can only wreak havoc if it has the fuel to do so. When you regularly eat sugary snacks, you continuously feed the oral bacteria and give it ammunition for acid attacks. If you do find yourself with a sugar craving, however, try having it after a meal—your saliva flow will help wash away most of it.
Eat tooth-healthy food
Aside from scouring off what causes the decay, another way to prevent tooth decay is to strengthen your teeth’s defenses. How so, you may ask? Simple: watch the food you eat. Fortunately, there’s a plethora of healthy food for teeth ready for eating. Want to be more creative? Mix them up in some fun and tasty recipes\
Drinking lots of water
If fluoride and what you consume is what prevents tooth decay, then it’s essential to get the right amount of consumable fluoride in your system. Fortunately, most states have fluoridated water sources, so access isn’t too much of a problem. For states without these water sources, however, you might need to make an extra purchase. Seeing how potent fluoride is in preventing tooth decay, however, it’s a purchase well spent.
- Fluoride plays a big role in what prevents tooth decayBy now, the notion that fluoride helps prevent tooth decay is something widely accepted. While it’s not some magic deterrent for tooth decay, this mineral makes your teeth less vulnerable to any environmental threats. When it bonds with calcium and phosphate, it makes your tooth enamel less likely to lose minerals throughout the day. This, in turn, helps your teeth prevent tooth decay.
You can make the most of fluoride’s benefits by brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste. Getting a toothpaste that’s approved by the American Dental Association is ideal for this. Or perhaps getting a fluoride varnish with your nearest dental office. Regardless, it’s best to consult your dentist about what fluoride options you have.
How fluoride helps your teeth
The teeth have an outermost layer called the enamel, which contains minerals. Every day, your enamel undergoes a process of demineralization (loss of minerals) and remineralization (gaining new minerals).
Demineralization occurs when bad bacteria release acid in your mouth. However, with the right food intake and good oral hygiene, enamel can experience remineralization as it gains fluoride, phosphate, and potassium. The latter minerals are critical to keep the enamel strong. Products containing fluoride strengthen your teeth by increasing remineralization, prohibiting acid-causing bacteria in the process.
Who needs fluoride treatments?
Fluoride is recommended for everyone. However, there are certain people who especially require this mineral:
- Those with gum problems. If one has gum problems, fluoride treatments available from your dentist may assist.
- Individuals who experience dry mouth. Dry mouth or”xerostomia” is common in those with Sjogren’s syndrome, anxiety, vitamin deficiencies, and other conditions. A dry oral cavity makes it harder to properly chew and digest food. Additionally, the acid secreted by bacteria thriving in your mouth may not be washed away due to the lack of salivary production. Thus, the chances of cavities and gum problems might be on the rise.
- People with braces or crowns. Sometimes braces and crowns pose risk for oral cavities and tooth decay. For this reason, dentists not only recommend extra oral care but also special cleaning devices to get in and around brackets or crowns.
Fluoride treatments at your dentist
Although fluoride is apart of commercial toothpaste, you can receive a more effective fluoride treatment at your dentist’s clinic. It not only strengthens your teeth but also helps you receive whiter pearly whites.
There are two types of fluoride that dentists use frequently on their patients. These include neutral sodium fluoride and acidulated phosphate fluoride. Neutral sodium fluoride is best for individuals who have fillings and crowns or those who suffer from dry mouth.
Another form of fluoride treatment include fluoride supplements. Children at risk for tooth decay are great candidates for fluoride supplements. However, these are prescribed in low dosages. The ideal dose is at 0.25 to 1 mg. Dentists usually prescribe fluoride tablet dosages depending on their patient’s weight.
Fluoride gels and varnishes are also fluoride treatment alternatives. Gel treatments are usually applied to the teeth with a tray that is worn a certain amount of times a day. The varnish, on the other hand, is applied with a brush and left on for a specific range of time.
Fluoride has been proven very useful for strengthening your teeth and is highly recommended by dentists to maintain good oral health. There are so many available options that it’s actually hard not to have a good smile these days. Take control of your life, starting with fluoride toothpaste for happy, healthy smiles.