Cavities, or tooth decay, involve damaging and eventually destroying the enamel of your teeth. Once this hard, outer layer is penetrated by organic acids, the rest of the tooth becomes victimized by on-going decay. Decay is a very serious threat to the dental health of anyone and impacts children, teens and adults of all ages. Cavities get started when plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, is allowed to form and buildup on the outside of teeth. Plaque cannot be controlled or removed by regular brushing and flossing. It must be removed by a hygienist or dentist.
When anyone fails to see their dentist every six months for an exam and cleaning, plaque will be allowed take over and cavities are the end result. When you eat or drink foods containing sugar, the bacteria in the plaque produce acids that attack enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in constant contact with your teeth and over time the enamel will start to break down. This allows cavities or holes in your teeth to begin forming. Cavities start as little holes and then become big holes, leading to broken teeth or teeth that cannot be repaired or saved.
Here are some basic tips for preventing tooth decay:
- Brush twice a day with fluoride tooth paste
- Floss daily
- Eat nutritious and balanced meals that avoid excessive sugar
- Ask you dentist about the use of about supplemental fluoride and dental sealants
- Make it a habit to schedule regular appointments (twice a year) with you dentist for exams, x-rays and cleanings
Although cavities from plaque are more common in children, they can be just as threatening for adults. Unfortunately, plaque and cavities attack not only teeth but the gums as well. The process starts with recession of the gums that (without dental intervention) evolve into gum disease or gingivitis. Gum disease is very insidious causing swollen, red and bleeding gums, as well as infections. Eventually, gum disease will cause the loss of teeth and has been directly related to serious medical problems, because infections can easily spread to the major organ systems of the body thru the mouth.
As you can see, cavities and tooth decay should not be taken lightly, when it comes to both your dental and overall health.