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Tooth decay is a very widespread disease. Unfortunately, much of dentistry is dedicated to treating the myriad of symptoms that accompany tooth decay. Much of what dentists treat is almost completely preventable.

The prevention of tooth decay has, since the early seventies, found great success through the responsible fluoridation of municipal water and the education of the general public in effective oral hygiene. Studies have indicated that these measures have subsequently reduced childhood decay rates by over 70%.

Although tooth decay has declined among young children as a group, it can still be a problem for individual children, and even teens and adults. That’s because plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat or drink foods containing sugars or starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth and after many such attacks, the enamel can break down and a cavity forms.

Certain foods and the way they are consumed have increasingly begun to contribute to tooth decay. Like bacterial acid, acidic foods (pH of 5.5 or lower) also break down tooth enamel. This is especially true when teeth are exposed to these acids for prolonged periods of time. Some studies indicate that, on average, it requires about 20 minutes for your mouth to neutralize acids. If, for example, you sip an acidic liquid such as a soft drink, the exposure is prolonged and the damage is worse.

Academy Dental considers prevention job number one. We do recognize, however, that preventive measures are mainly the responsibility of our patients. Hence, we seek to provide professional dental health education along with the latest in enamel therapy, periodontal therapy, and early examination and detection of oral pathology.

Preventing Decay:

* Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.

* Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.

* Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.

* Visit us regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.

* Ask us about dental sealants, a protective plastic coating that can be applied where decay often starts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is a destruction of the tooth enamel. It occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as milk, soda, cakes or candy are frequently left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.

How Do I Prevent Tooth Decay?
You can help prevent tooth decay by following these tips:

* Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.

* Clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaner.

* Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacking.

* Check with us about the use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth, and about the use of dental sealants (a plastic protective coating) applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from decay.

* Visit us regularly for professional cleanings and oral examination.

Aren't Cavities Just Kid's Stuff?
No. Changes that occur with aging make cavities an adult problem, too. Recession of the gums away from the teeth, combined with an increased incidence of periodontal (gum) disease, can expose tooth roots to plaque. Tooth roots are covered with cementum, a softer tissue than enamel. They are susceptible to decay and are more sensitive to touch and to hot and cold. The majority of people over age 50 have tooth-root decay.

Decay around the edges, or margins, of fillings is also common to older adults. Because many older adults lacked benefits of fluoride and modern preventive dental care when they were growing up, they often have a number of dental fillings. Over the years, these fillings may weaken and tend to fracture and leak around the edges. Bacteria accumulate in these tiny crevices causing acid to build up which leads to decay.

Additional Resources

ADA Statement on Early Childhood Caries

Eating Habits for a Healthy Smile and Body

Sealing out tooth decay

Fluoride: Nature’s tooth decay fighter

A look at toothbrushes

Fluoride treatments in the dental office

Dental Care While Traveling

Toothbrush Care, Cleaning and Replacement

From Baby Bottle to Cup: Choose Training Cups Carefully, Use Them Temporarily

The Facts About Bottled Water

Eating Habits That Can Harm Teeth

Diet and Tooth Decay

Basic Oral Health Care

source: American Dental Association