How to Prevent Tooth Decay
Chances are you’ve had to visit your dentist in Woden because of a dental cavity, but do you know how it got there? Cavities, holes in our teeth, are actually caused by tooth decay over time. And, as decay happens gradually, cavities don’t have to be a foregone conclusion. It’s possible to prevent tooth decay or reverse the process and avoid unwanted cavities and dental fillings.
How Does Tooth Decay Happen?
Our mouths are full of hundreds of different types of bacteria, and when they come into contact with the sugars and starches in our food and drink, they can form acids. Over time the acids attack the enamel surface of our teeth. As the enamel becomes weaker, it can start to break down and decay. This decay causes the enamel to be destroyed, and cavities form as permanent damage to our teeth.
While it isn’t possible to avoid exposing our teeth to these acids entirely, there are fortunately lots of things we can do to prevent and reduce tooth decay. And, even better news, if we stop tooth decay early in its tracks, enamel can actually repair itself and replace the lost minerals.
The Danger of Ignoring Tooth Decay
As we’ve touched on, tooth decay happens gradually over time. So, the longer it is left, the more damage it can cause. When decay first starts, there are very few symptoms, making it hard to detect. As it gets worse, however, it can begin to cause sensitivity to temperature and teeth can begin to throb. If still ignored, teeth can become infected and the decay can reach the nerve. When the nerve is infected an abscess may form and you can experience serious pain, swelling, and fever. The problem is, once tooth decay has progressed into a cavity and infection, you won’t be able to reverse the problem and will need treatment.
Treatment for Tooth Decay
- Dental fillings – the dental decay is removed from the tooth, and the hole is replaced with a dental filling, or the tooth covered with a crown.
- Root canals – if the infection has reached the blood vessels and nerves in the pulp chamber of the tooth, the entire root may need to be removed and replaced.
- Dental implants – if the tooth has been badly damaged and cannot be restored, it may need to be removed entirely. Dental implants can then be used to replace the missing tooth.
Prevention Rather than Cure
None of us want to have fillings, root canals, or dental implants if they can be avoided. That is why it’s vital to learn how to prevent tooth decay. Prevention always needs to start with excellent oral hygiene. This is the process of cleaning your mouth, including your teeth, gums, and tongue, to make sure that bacteria doesn’t have a chance to build up.
There are lots of things you can do to keep your oral hygiene in check, consider:
- Your routine – you need to clean your teeth regularly, for two minutes, ideally twice a day. Ask your Woden dentist what type of toothbrush would be best for you and make sure you floss daily and interdental brushes too if required.
- Fluoride – fluoride prevents mineral loss and strengthens enamel, making your teeth more resistant to the acid in plaque. Fluoride is found in most toothpaste and in Australian tap water. If your dentist in Canberra thinks you need more fluoride, they may add a fluoride gel or varnish to the surface of your teeth.
- Dental check-ups – it’s vital to visit your Woden dentist regularly to have your teeth checked and cleaned. This will help you to prevent or reverse tooth decay. Also, if tooth decay has led to a cavity, the sooner you get it treated, the better.
- Sealants – if you have deep grooves in any of your teeth, most likely your back molars, they can collect food and lead to the formation of cavities. Your dentist might recommend placing sealants, thin, plastic coatings, which create a barrier to protect the teeth.
- Your diet – making the right food choices can make a huge difference to the amount of acid-building sugars and starches in your mouth. Our saliva will try to fight acid attacks, but if we eat the wrong foods too often, it won’t stand a chance.
- Chewing gum – chewing sugar-free gum can help your mouth produce extra saliva. Saliva will work to wash away any residual food debris and fight against decay.
- Smoking – as well as being bad for your lungs, smoking can produce more bacterial plaque which can lead to gum disease. What’s more, smoking will impact your gum’s ability to heal, due to reduced oxygen in the bloodstream.
Keeping Decay at Bay
The best way you can prevent tooth decay is by practising good oral hygiene, having a balanced and nutritious diet, and visiting your dentist regularly. Your dentist in Canberra will be able to help you establish the right method and routines and choose the tools you’ll need to achieve it. By reducing the amount of plaque in your mouth and limiting the amount of acid-building bacteria that are at work, you should be well on your way to keeping decay at bay.
If you would like to book an appointment with us here in Woden at Acacia Dental Group, don’t hesitate to give us a call on (02) 6281 2222. You will see one of our dentists, who will examine your teeth and mouth and explain your options for treatment.