Look Ma, No More Cavities
The slogan “Look, Ma, no cavities” has become reality for many children today. The number of children who have cavities has decreased steadily in the United States for the last several decades thanks to fluoridation, education, and regular preventative dental care. Nevertheless, we arent out of the woods yet, as caries (dental decay) is still the most common of all dental diseases. The problem of dental decay isnt reserved just for children, as the frequency of cavities seems to be on the rise again for adults.
So what causes cavities to form? Well, its really due to a combination of factors. Some we can control, and others we cant. The main culprit is a set of bacteria that are always present in our mouths. When the environment in our mouths allows these bacteria to thrive on the surfaces of our teeth, we are at risk. The fight against cavities is fought both at home and with the help of your dental team.
One of the most important things you can do to prevent tooth decay is keeping all the surfaces of your teeth clean. Brushing twice a day will clean many of the surfaces of the teeth, but the bacteria like to hide in spots that are more difficult to reach. It is also important to clean the surfaces between the teeth and just under the surface of the gum tissue. Floss is the best tool for keeping these tooth surfaces clean. In addition to cleaning the surfaces of our teeth, we can help strengthen them against the threat these bacteria pose. Using toothpaste and mouth rinses that contain fluoride allows the surfaces of the teeth to be reinforced and resist the attack.
The other piece of this puzzle that occurs at home is what we eat. The bacteria that cause tooth decay need to eat, and just like us they love sweets. Sweetened beverages and foods contain natural and refined sugars that put bacteria at an advantage. Think about where you can reduce or eliminate sugary foods and drinks, or make an effort to rinse or clean your teeth after eating to remove the sugar and decrease your risk.
Your dentist and hygienist play a very important role in keeping your teeth healthy and free of cavities. Having your teeth professionally cleaned to remove the bacteria from the surfaces of the teeth below the gum and in the hard to reach areas is a key ingredient.
Despite our best efforts, cavities happen. Seeing your dentist routinely allows these disease spots to be found early during a comprehensive exam. When cavities are found early, there are conservative treatments available to help restore the tooth to health. Keeping your teeth healthy for a lifetime is the goal. Working together with caring, well-trained dental professionals is the solution.