Experiencing severe tooth decay may be what drives many people in pain to seek out a Houston dentist, but by following a guide to preventing tooth decay, that could change. Working proactively to minimize tooth decay can result in less discomfort, pain, and expensive corrective procedures. By preventing tooth decay before it happens, individuals can help better safeguard their oral health.
What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is essentially the breakdown of a tooth’s structure and is a frequent predecessor to developing cavities. It is not always obvious to the naked eye and may or may not cause sensitivity in some people. In fact, it is estimated that approximately one in five individuals experience untreated tooth decay leading to discomfort, pain, and difficulty performing some routine daily activities.
Tooth decay can take many different forms and cause conditions such as:
- Intense pain or toothache
- Tooth sensitivity to temperature and/or sweets
- Problems chewing
Unattended tooth decay could eventually turn into a serious infection resulting in fever and swelling.
For many people, tooth decay occurs from consuming particularly sugary foods or drinks. In terms of food, candy and cakes are some of the most common offenders. Sodas and fruit juices are filled with sugar and frequent and repeated consumption of them is thought to contribute to tooth decay. The real damage occurs because food and drinks turn into plaque which sticks to teeth and eats away at tooth enamel. This is how cavities develop.
A Guide to Preventing Tooth Decay
Adopting steps in preventing tooth decay can make a positive impact on your overall oral health. It is a win-win for patients and their Houston dentists, which is appropriate since the best method for achieving success is a team effort. There are things both patients and Houston dentists can do to help protect against tooth decay.
Some steps patients can take today include:
- Keep an appointment with the dentist every six months. One of the best tools in a guide to preventing tooth decay is for individuals to go to the dentist once every six months for a professional teeth cleaning. This appointment may also include x-rays so the dentist can track the progression of oral health over time. Seeing the dentist should be the first line of defense in protecting your teeth against tooth decay because it allows for early detection. Reducing your dental visits to just one time a year could put you on the fast track for problems with undetected tooth decay. To keep from missing necessary appointments, consider booking your next dental appointment before leaving your current one.
- Brush your teeth. For years, dental professionals have been advising people to brush their teeth a minimum of two times a day, once in the morning after breakfast and again at night before bed. To be truly effective, it is highly recommended to use toothpaste that contains fluoride.
- Although it may be tempting to skip flossing, when flossing regularly it is one of the key elements of a guide to preventing tooth decay. This thin, string-like material should be used every day to help clean in between teeth. Work your way from the top of the gap between two teeth downward and then go back up again. Individuals who have braces or permanent retainers are still able to floss and can obtain special flossing tools from their dentists to make the job easier.
- Use mouthwash. While mouthwash can provide a minty fresh feeling inside the mouth, it is also useful in killing bacteria that contributes to the formation of plaque. Be sure to use a mouthwash that contains fluoride and is alcohol free. Closely follow the instructions listed on the product.
- Practice good nutrition. Armed with the knowledge that the frequent and regular consumption of sugary foods and drinks can lead to tooth decay, most patients are advised to avoid these items or at least enjoy only in moderation. It is also recommended to minimize intake of particularly sticky or chewy foods. In contrast, there can be an advantage to eating and drinking for a more nutritious diet to glean important vitamins and nutrients that can help keep teeth healthy and strong.
- Beware of snacking and sipping throughout the day. Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner means just three introductions of food to your mouth, and if you brush after eating breakfast, it leaves just two meals before the next brush. However, snacking and sipping all day long introduces food and drink to the mouth which could lead to tooth decay. Sipping on sodas is the worse as it not only introduces sugar but is also acidic and contributes to tooth erosion.
- Drink the right water. Tap water and water that is found at most public facilities has fluoride already in it. This can be helpful in fighting tooth decay. Unfortunately, bottled water does not typically contain fluoride, so it may not be as useful in reducing the incidence of tooth decay.
In addition, there are steps a professional dentist can take to help prevent tooth decay in certain patients depending on their age and the condition of their oral health, such as:
- Giving young children fluoride varnish. There is research showing that young children who have one or more teeth breaking through the gums should receive fluoride varnish. Its introduction is thought to strengthen tooth enamel and potentially prevent up to forty percent of cavities in an individual’s primary teeth.
- Applying dental sealants. It is most common in premolars and molars. Placing dental sealant on the surface of teeth, especially with deep grooves, will provide a strong barrier against cavities. It is for this reason that some dentists may recommend dental sealants for young children with beginning signs of tooth decay.
The Role Houston Dentists Play in Preventing and Stopping Tooth Decay
Individuals that go see a dentist every six months will receive professional cleanings and periodic x-rays, both of which give the dentist a benchmark to compare future visits by. Should there be a spot that looks questionable on an x-ray, it is marked to watch for the future. The x-ray from the next appointment should show if any change has occurred in the interim.
If this has occurred, the dentist can go step by step with patients to evaluate if there are certain actions that are not being taken. They may ask how many times a day the person is brushing their teeth and when. They may also ask about flossing, nutrition, and lifestyle. If there are any obvious red flags, they will likely address those with the patient to correct for the future.
Patients that have not had regular visits in the past but find that they have tooth decay during an appointment may need additional procedures such as fillings, root canals, or tooth extractions. Dentists will still work with these individuals to try to stop tooth decay from progressing unchecked.
Without a dentist’s highly trained eye and expertise, people are forced to rely on their own discomfort, pain, or changes in physical appearance to know that there is a problem with their teeth. This generally results in more extensive and costly procedures than may have been necessary if the patient had kept up with regular, twice-a-year dental cleanings.
A guide to preventing tooth decay is one of the most valuable tools individuals can have at their disposal when it comes to better protecting their oral health. If you are not sure where to start or are currently experiencing signs of tooth decay, it is a good idea to make an appointment with your Houston dentist.