How To Stop Tooth Decay
Decay and the subsequent hole that develops is actually a symptom of a disease process called caries. You can only have caries when certain acid-loving bacteria are established in large concentrations in the mouth (to date 60+ bacteria have been recognized to contribute to caries, tooth decay & subsequent cavity formation requiring fillings). This acid-loving bacterial colony is called an “unhealthy bio-film”. It is now possible, using medicament’s in the form of mouth rinses & tooth gels & mouth sprays, to change the concentrations of these “bad” bacteria thus altering the bacteria living in your mouth to those that thrive in a more healthy neutral or alkaline environment (healthy bio-film). If this happens then the cycle of getting cavities & needing fillings should stop altogether or slow down.
How Tooth Decay Happens
Tooth Decay is caused by certain types of acid loving bacteria (e.g. mutans streptococci and lactobacilli etc) that live in the mouth. When they attach themselves to the teeth and multiply in dental plaque, they can do damage. The bacteria feed on what you eat, especially sugars (including fruit sugars) and cooked starch (bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, etc). Within about five minutes after you eat or drink, the bacteria begin producing acids as a by-product of their digesting your food. Those acids can penetrate into the hard substance of the tooth and dissolve some of its minerals (calcium and phosphate). If the acid attacks are infrequent and of short duration, your saliva can help to repair the damage by neutralizing the acids and supplying minerals and fluoride that can replace those lost from the tooth. However if you have many of these bacteria, or your saliva is defective; then the tooth mineral lost by the attacks of acid is too great and cannot be repaired. This is the start of tooth decay and leads to cavities. Smaller cavities are fixed with either dental fillings. Larger cavities can be fixed with either dental fillings or stronger more long lasting dental crowns & overlays
Methods of Controlling Tooth Decay
- 1.Diet: Reducing the number of sugary and starchy foods, snacks, drinks, or lollies can help reduce the development of tooth decay. That doesn’t mean you can never eat these types of foods, but you should limit their consumption particularly when eating between main meals. A good rule is 3 meals per day and no more than 3 snacks per day. Your last snack/meal of the day should be at least one hour prior to you going to bed.
- 2. Fluorides: Fluorides help make teeth more resistant to being dissolved by bacterial acids. Fluorides are available from a variety of sources such as drinking water, toothpaste, mouth rinses, and products prescribed by your dentist such as brush on gels used at home or gels and foams applied in the dental surgery. Daily use is very important to help protect against the acid attacks.
- 3. Plaque Removal: The most important thing that you can do at home is to clean your teeth at least twice daily for 2 minutes. The purpose of cleaning the teeth is to reduce the overall level of bacteria in your mouth as well as clean the biting surfaces and the sides of the teeth facing the tongue and cheeks. Brushing is also effective in reversing and preventing gingivitis, but in order to control and prevent tooth decay, you must use a toothpaste containing fluoride. However in order to clean between the teeth other oral hygiene aids must be used daily. E.g. Floss, interproximal brushes. Having a professional dental clean with one of our dentists or dental hygienist is a great way of removing dental plaque, dental calculus & scale that you may have missed
- 4. Saliva: Saliva is critical for controlling tooth decay. It neutralizes tooth decay acids and provides minerals and proteins that protect the teeth. If you cannot brush after a meal or snack, you can chew some sugar free gum. This will stimulate the flow of saliva to help neutralize the acids and bring lost minerals back to the teeth. (Sugar free candy and mints could also be used, but some of these contain acids themselves. These acids will not cause tooth decay, but they can slowly dissolve the enamel surface over time (a process called erosion)). Some sugar free gums are designed to help fight tooth decay and are particularly useful if you have a dry mouth (many medications can cause dry mouth). Some gums contain baking soda, which neutralizes the acids produced by the bacteria in plaque.
- Gum that contains xylitol as its first ingredient is the gum of choice. e.g.: Recaldent; Xtra professional or Xtra for kids
- If you have a dry mouth, you could also fill a drinking bottle with water and add 2 teaspoons of baking soda for each 8 ounces of water and swish with it frequently throughout the day. We also have Carifree boost oral spray (small spray bottles premixed to lubricate dry mouth & keep the oral PH around neutral) Toothpastes containing baking soda are also available from several companies.
- 5. Antibacterial mouth rinses: Carifree treatment & maintenance rinse to reduce the number of bad bacteria that cause tooth decay & encourage a healthy more neutral/alkaline biofilm.
- 6. Preventative resin restorations are plastic coatings bonded to the biting surfaces of back teeth to protect the deep grooves from decay. In some people, the grooves on the surfaces of the teeth are too narrow and deep to clean with a toothbrush, so they may decay in spite of your best efforts thus creating “reservoirs” of bad bacteria that subsequently seed the rest of your mouth causing cavities elsewhere. Sealants are an excellent preventative measure for children and young adults at risk.
Medicaments available in the form of mouth rinses, tooth gels, fluoride applications & mouth sprays are all available at Milford Dentists, North Shore Auckland.
- 1) Floss daily
- 2) Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste
- 3) Limit sugary snacks and drinks between meals
- 4) Chew xylitol chewing gum (Recaldent; xtra professional or xtra for kids) after meals or snacking when you cannot brush.
- 5) Drink more water
- 6) Have regular dental cleaning with your dental Hygienist or Dentist
- 7) Use a dental water pick