Tooth decay, or cavities, is among the most common oral health problems in the world. They are particularly common in small children and older adults, but anyone who has teeth is susceptible to getting cavities or battling tooth decay.
Tooth decay is the destruction of the tooth structure. It can affect the enamel – the outer coating on the tooth, and dentin – the dense, bony tissue below the enamel. Dentin makes up the bulk of the tooth, so if that area becomes affected, it is much harder to treat.
Although preventable, tooth decay happens because of plaque buildup. Food that contain carbohydrates – bread, cereal, milk, candy, soda, or fruits – leave residue in your mouth after eating. The bacteria in your mouth reacts with that residue and turns to acid. This acid, along with bacteria, food debris, and saliva, create plaque. The acids in plaque eat away at the tooth’s enamel, creating holes in the teeth called cavities.
Causes of Tooth Decay
There are many causes for tooth decay, but fortunately, many of them are preventable. Main causes of tooth decay are sticky, sugary foods and drinks. Sugar produces more acid, which leads to decay. Plaque combined, with sugar, weakens the enamel on your teeth, making them more likely to suffer from decay.There are other causes of tooth decay to be aware of:
- Inadequate Brushing: Your teeth are susceptible to plaque for 20 minutes after eating. If you don’t brush soon enough after eating or drinking, there is a greater risk for early signs of decay. Also, not brushing with proper techniques or frequency allows for plaque build up.
- Dry Mouth: Saliva helps wash away food debris and residue, which in turn, helps prevent plaque from forming. If you have very little saliva, plaque can build up more quickly.
- Eating and Drinking: Unavoidable as it is, eating and drinking play a significant role in the formation of cavities. When you eat and drink, carbohydrates remain on your teeth until you brush.
- Bacteria & Acid: The naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth combines with residual carbohydrates to create acid.
- Eating Disorders: Eating disorders contribute to tooth decay when teeth are exposed to acid from the stomach. Bulimia increases the risk to decay or a cavity due to frequent vomiting.
- Medical Issues: Some medical treatments, such as chemotherapy or other cancer treatments that expose the body to radiation promote tooth decay by changing the genetic and hormonal makeup of saliva. This change increases bacterial growth.
- Nighttime Infant Feedings: Formula, milk, juice, or other liquids containing sugar remain on baby’s and kid’s teeth for hours while they sleep. This “feeds” decay-causing bacteria. This is called “baby bottle tooth decay” and similar damage occurs when toddlers drink the same liquids out of sippy cups throughout the day.
Signs and Symptoms of Tooth Decay
Depending on the severity and location of the tooth decay, the symptoms and signs can vary. However, during the very early stages of cavity and tooth decay, there may not be symptoms at all. As the decay gets larger, some of symptoms and signs may be visible, such as:
- Toothaches – sharp, spontaneous pain
- Tooth sensitivity
- Pain when eating something sweet, hot, or cold
- Visible holes or pits in your teeth
- Staining on the surface of your teeth
- Pain when chewing or biting into food
Because it is not always apparent when there is a cavity forming, it’s important to have regular dentist checks and cleanings. If you experience pain, see a dentist as soon as possible.
Practicing good oral and dental hygiene can help prevent tooth decay and the formation of cavities. Always consult with your dentist, but some options are:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride-based toothpaste. It’s best to brush after each meal and before bedtime. Use floss or an interdental cleaner to get food residue out from between your teeth between meals.
- Avoid snacking between meals. Snacking throughout the day puts your teeth under constant attack. There is no break between meals for the saliva to wash away food debris and assist in cleaning your teeth.
- Eat a nutritious and well-balanced diet and avoid foods that are heavy in carbohydrates. Foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables promote saliva production and unsweetened beverages help wash away food debris and residue.
- Drink tap water because most public water supplies contain fluoride. If you only drink bottled water, you miss out on the benefits that fluoride has for preventing tooth decay.
- Rinse at least once a day with mouthwash that contains fluoride. Mouthwashes also have antiseptics that kill plaque-causing bacteria.
- Dental sealants – a protective, plastic coating that go on your molars – seals off grooves and cracks where food can get stuck. This prevents tooth enamel from plaque and acid.
Visiting your dentist is the best way to prevent tooth decay and cavities from forming in your mouth. Being aware of your diet, brushing more frequently, and knowing how cavities are formed are the best ways to actively prevent oral conditions. Call your dentist today to schedule an appointment.
You probably weren’t aware that most people experience gum disease at some point in their lives. The good news is that treating mild gum disease (i.e. gingivitis) is really easy. Once treated, you can prevent re-occurrences by following a simple oral hygiene routine. If you have sore or bleeding gums and think you have gum disease, don’t panic. There are several ways to treat bleeding, swollen, irritated gums.
How to know if you have Gum Disease?
The first sign is blood on your toothbrush or in the toothpaste you spit out after cleaning your teeth. Your gums may also bleed when you are eating. Another sign is halitosis or bad breath.
Home Treatment Options:
- Improve your brushing and oral care routine (brush and floss a minimum of twice daily)
- Remove bacteria from below the gum line
- Use mouthwash
- Continue to brush, even if your gums are sore or bleeding
- Watch your diet. Stay away from carbonated drinks, sugary snacks and alcohol.
- Oil pulling: This method cures swollen, red gums, and even reverses gum disease. Oil pulling pulls toxins right out of your mouth and gums. Tip: Use 100 percent organic oil – sesame, olive, or coconut oil works best.
- Sage leaf: Sage contains antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. Boil 50 fresh organic sage leaves in water. Gargle the mixture several times a day like a mouthwash. You can also drink the mixture as a tea.
- Garlic/turmeric paste: Garlic and turmeric are full of antibacterial properties and anti-inflammatory agents. Rub garlic cloves on irritated gums, or make a garlic and turmeric paste to use like toothpaste. Leave the paste in your mouth for several minutes and then rinse well.
- Neem: Neem is a plant that is common in India and used in a variety of healing remedies. Neem oil has several antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties and can be used in mouthwash to reduce irritation.
- Mustard oil: This method has been used for hundreds of years to combat bad dental hygiene. It destroys bacteria in the mouth and heals the gums quickly with its anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties.
- Aloe vera gel: If your gums are red and inflamed, aloe vera is a great anti-inflammatory agent. Tip: It’s best to get the gel right from the aloe plant itself.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables: The skin on most fruits and vegetables helps clean the teeth. In addition, the antioxidants in both fruits and vegetables also prevent plaque build up in the mouth.
Gum disease is a sneaky, progressive disease. If left untreated, it can turn into a more severe form of gingivitis called periodontitis. Toxins from this buildup of bacterial plaque affect your gum tissue, as well as the bones and ligaments that support your teeth. As the infection progresses, your teeth may become loose and need to be treated surgically or removed. If you’re in the advanced stages of gum disease (i.e. persistent bleeding gums, extreme sensitivity, loose teeth), or need advice about your oral health, book an appointment with a dentist immediately. Your dentist will discuss your options and what you can do to maintain a healthy smile.
Did you know that healthy teeth is linked to a balanced diet and eating healthy? As much as brushing consistently, flossing and rinsing is important, what you eat can have a significant impact on your oral health. By getting rid of unhealthy food from your diet and visiting the dentist regularly, you’re drastically increasing your chances of maintaining healthy teeth and decreasing your chances of acquiring gum disease.
What is the correlation between diet and healthy teeth nutrition?
Foods that contain sugars can lead to tooth decay. In fact, many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and is potentially more severe in people with poor nutrition. According to the Canadian Dental Association, a proper, balanced diet is good for your overall and dental health. Without proper nutrients, your teeth and gums become more susceptible to decay and gum disease and it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to resist infection. To control the amount of sugar you eat, read the nutrition facts and ingredient labels on foods and beverages, choose options that are lowest in sugar but your best bet is to buy natural ingredients (as opposed to processed or canned foods) to properly maintain your diet.
Foods/Snacks to avoid:
- Sugary snacks: sugar is one of the main causes of dental problems. The average Canadian eats the equivalent of 110 grams of sugar each day (approximately 21 percent of your daily energy intake).
- Processed Foods of foods that have been genetically modified.
- Foods that are high in sugar or sugar substitutes (typically ending in -ose like high fructose corn syrup).
- Sports drinks: sports drinks do not contain of sugars but contain a lot of acids. The acid in these drinks breaks down the tooth’s enamel, causing your teeth to become overly sensitive to temperature changes and touch.
- Refrain from drinks that stain your teeth.
- Tobacco: Cigarettes, cigars and chewing/smokeless tobacco are all harmful for you oral and overall health. In addition to containing nicotine, cigarettes also contain approximately 28 harmful chemicals.
Some great-tasting snacks that won’t harm your teeth:
- Foods that contain dairy: Milk, buttermilk, yogurt and cheese contain calcium, which help assist with tooth development and strengthen your teeth and gums.
- Fruit and raw vegetables: For vegetarians, vegans or those with dietary restrictions, (i.e. lactose intolerance) fruits and veggies contain a ton of vitamins which are very important for good oral health. Eating one cup of dark leafy greens (e.g. kale, bok choy, spinach, collards, etc.) daily provides nearly 10 percent of the recommended daily calcium allowance. Fruits and vegetables are also fibrous in nature, meaning they’re able to stimulate the salivary glands to release lots of saliva, which in turn protects your teeth.
- Sugar-free gum: Sugar-free chewing gum increased the salivary flow in your mouth. Saliva can washes away food, neutralizes acid in the mouth, and can repair damaged teeth. If you can’t brush after you eat, try chewing a piece of gum. Some gums, contain xylitol, which is a sugar-alcohol that can actually kill the bacteria that ruin your teeth.
Everything you eat affects your whole body, which is why it is so important to visit your dentist regularly, as they’re the only people who have the skills and expertise to properly address all your oral health care needs. Visit our locations page to find a dentist near you.
With a new year now here, what better time is there to evaluate your oral health? Considering oral health has a direct impact on your overall health, your mouth acts as a window to the rest of your body and often detects early signs of systemic disease.
Here are four tips for a healthy mouth:
- Visit the dentist regularly and consistently. According to the Canadian Dental Association, 75 percent of Canadians go to the dentist annually and they recommend that patients should visit dentists approximately twice a year to keep your teeth and gums strong and healthy. Regular cleanings and dental exams can help prevent gingivitis, periodontitis. It also decreases your chances of gum disease and helps to prevent future oral problems.
- Eat well and Watch your sugar intake. It’s important to monitor or reduce sugar intake (i.e. carbonated beverages, fruit juices, coffee, and alcohol). These sugary snacks create an environment for halitosis (bad breath), as well as produce acid which breaks down the enamel on your teeth causing excessive plaque to build up; which if not taken care of will eat away at your teeth and gums. A balanced diet is also crucial to your teeth. Studies from the University of Manitoba found that not only do nutrients help create stronger teeth; some fatty acids (i.e. Omega 3, calcium, vitamin D) can lower the risk of gum disease.
- Avoid Smoking. Most people are under the assumption that smoking only discolours your teeth, however cigarettes also contribute to gum disease and oral cancer as the nicotine and tar eats away at your gums and tissues, making your mouth more susceptible to bacteria and plaque that will infiltrate your teeth.
- Brush and Floss Your Teeth and Tongue Consistently. To maintain a healthy smile, it’s best to brush your teeth and tongue a minimum of twice a day to remove any plaque and tartar buildup. Most toothpaste also contains fluoride which helps prevent tooth decay as well as freshens your breath. The Canadian Dental Association recommends you floss a minimum of once per day. Flossing is important as it acts as an interdental cleaner while helps clean the spaces where the toothbrush can’t reach as well as it removes the stuck on tartar and food particles that reside there.
What better time is there to implement a proper dental regime? Visit our locations page to find the location nearest you to discover how Altima Dental can help you love your smile.