How to Take Care of Your Teeth
Although taking care of your teeth properly isn’t rocket science, it does demand a certain amount of technique combined with diligence, consistency, and an eye toward preventing problems rather than suffering through them later. Of course, the first line of defense is proper brushing and flossing. You’ll find a separate page about that here, Brushing & Flossing. Beyond those daily duties, here are some other keys to prevention.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Most foods we eat have sugars in them. Our mouth has legions of bacteria living in it. Together, they can spell decay, that five-letter bad word in the dental world. When the bacteria and sugars interact, acids are produced. Those acids break down the mineral content in the enamel of our teeth, allowing bacteria into the tooth and starting the process of decay that results in a cavity, and if not treated, far worse things. Left untreated, decay progresses, endangering the tooth and the surrounding gums. It’s critical that a dentist remove any decay as soon as it shows itself in twice-yearly checkups. Minimal decay is removed and the affected area is filled, restoring the health of the tooth. But when the decay is extensive, nerve damage may occur. In this case, a dental crown (a large filling that caps a tooth to make it stronger) is used. Even more severe decay will result in extraction of the tooth. But tooth decay is easily preventable with brushing, flossing, use of fluoride toothpaste, refraining from an overly sugar-filled diet, and regular checkups with your dentist.
The chewing surfaces of our molars have depressions and grooves where food and bacteria can hide out. Think of them as canyons and fissures in your teeth. It can be impossible to adequately clean these teeth if genetics have given you this landscape on your molars. The resulting food debris and bacteria end up causing decay — a recent study found that 88 percent of cavities suffered by U.S. children formed in this fashion. Sealants, however, can give you a sturdy defense. Sealants are made of resin and are used to fill the fissures and pits in your molars, keeping out bacteria and food particles. After curing, sealants are almost as hard as your teeth, so chewing is unaffected. And they can last for decades.
Ever wonder why you find fluoride in virtually every toothpaste brand? Because fluoride has been scientifically proven to significantly reduce tooth decay. In fact, communities with fluoride added to the water supply have a 50% decrease in tooth decay in children. In addition to fluoridated water and toothpaste, there are also fluoride supplements and fluoride gels or varnishes that the dentist can apply.