It may be surprising to hear that dental decay is the most common chronic infectious disease affecting children. It is a disease that is progressive and leads to more complicated treatment the longer it is neglected. This blog will cover the formula for getting tooth decay and provide simple tips to aid in its prevention. The formula consists of (1) a location that allows bacteria to easily adhere to the tooth, (2) bacterial plaque, and (3) sugar. Each aspect can be addressed to effectively reduce an individual’s susceptibility to getting decay.
Location – The two most common sites for tooth decay are on the top of the teeth in the grooves, and between the teeth in the contact area. The bacteria can “hide” from the toothbrush in these areas. For individuals showing signs of decay, we recommend sealing the back teeth in order to make it easier to keep the tops of the teeth clean. The second site showing high prevalence of decay is the contact area between the teeth. There is only one answer for this location and that is FLOSSING!Without flossing, we cannot keep all surfaces of the tooth clean.
Bacterial Plaque – Many people state that they have “soft teeth” or they inherited bad teeth. Dental caries (cavities) is a disease that affects us all differently. Though we have bacteria on all our teeth, only specific types of bacteria cause tooth decay and it appears that some individuals are more resistant to the types of decay producting bacteria. We cannot do much about our genetics, but we can do our best to remove bacteria plaque from our teeth. Eliminating plaque build-up is the goal of our daily oral hygiene routine. We recommend brushing twice a day and flossing before you brush at night. For those with active decay we customize oral hygiene instructions for each patient, so ask your dentist what plan would be best for your current oral health status.
Sugar – Sugar provides the food for the cavity causing bacteria to secrete acids that melt away the tooth structure. Once this process gets deep enough into the tooth, the decay needs to be removed and a filling placed to fill in the “cavity”. If left untreated the decay will go deeper into the tooth and the treatment options become more complicated. The first step is to decrease the amount of sugar we consume, and the second is to lower the frequency by which we expose our teeth to sugar. The frequency of sugar consumption directly effects the amount of time bacteria are active in producing acids on our teeth. By sipping on soda frequently throughout the day, your mouth stays in a constant cavity producing state. So both limiting the amount and frequency of sugar intake is another way to lower your risk for dental decay.
It is important to know that tooth decay is almost completely preventable. This not only saves you time, but money in regards to future dental costs.
Dr. Brandon Helgeson DDS
Children’s Oral Health. Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Division of Oral Health. Jan. 7 2011