Put teeth in contact with acid from oral bacteria and you've created the conditions for tooth decay. Also known as caries, tooth decay is the most common human disease on the planet, responsible for destroying countless teeth.
We fortunately have effective treatments for arresting decay and minimizing its damage. But it's a far better strategy to prevent it in the first place—a strategy well within your reach if you and your dentist can reduce your individual risk factors for the disease.
Of these risk factors, there's one in particular we can't control—the genes we inherit from our parents. Researchers estimate up to 50 possible genes can influence whether or not a person develops cavities. Fortunately, though, most think the overall genetic influence has minimal impact on a person's oral health.
And although there's not much about your genetic makeup regarding cavity development that you can change, there are other factors you can definitely do something about. Here are 3 of the most important that deserve your attention if you want to prevent tooth decay.
Dental plaque. The main trigger for tooth decay and other dental diseases is a thin film of food particles on tooth surfaces called dental plaque, the main food source for the bacteria that cause disease. You can reduce this risk by removing plaque daily with brushing and flossing, along with a professional cleaning every six months.
Saliva. This essential bodily fluid helps prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acid. Problems can arise, though, if you have insufficient saliva. If you suffer from "dry mouth," you can improve saliva flow by talking to your dentist or doctor about changing medications, drinking more water or using saliva enhancement products.
Diet. Bacteria feed mainly on sugar and other refined carbohydrates. So, the more sweets, pastries and processed foods you eat, the more bacterial growth you can expect to occur. By changing your diet to more whole foods like fresh vegetables, protein and dairy, you may be able to reduce bacterial growth and your risk for decay.
Tooth decay always happens for a reason. By addressing these and other controllable risk factors, you may be able to stop decay from forming.
If you would like more information on preventing and treating tooth decay, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “What Everyone Should Know About Tooth Decay.”