Preventing tooth decay: Tooth decay is destruction of tooth structure and can affect both the enamel (outer coating of tooth) and dentin layer of tooth.
Tooth decay occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as breads, cereals, milk, soda, fruits, cakes, or candy are left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in mouth digest these foods, turning them into acids. The bacteria, acid, food debris, and saliva combine to form plaque, which clings to teeth. The acids in plaque dissolve the enamel surface of teeth, creating holes in teeth called cavities.
To prevent tooth decay:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride – containing toothpaste. Preferably, brush after each meal and especially before going to bed.
- Clean between your teeth daily with dental floss or interdental cleaners, such as Oral-B Interdental Brush, reach Stim-U-dent, or Sulcabrush.
- Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacks.
- Avoid carbohydrates such as candy, pretzels and chips, which can remain on tooth surface. If sticky foods are eaten, brush teeth soon afterwards.
- Drink fluoridation water. At least a pint of fluoridated water each day is needed to protect children from tooth decay.
Check with dentist about use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens teeth.
Ask dentist about dental sealants (a plastic protective coating) applied to chewing surfaces of back teeth (molars) to protect them from decay.
Researchers are developing new means to prevent tooth decay. One study found that a chewing gum that contains the sweetener xylitol temporarily retarded the growth of bacteria that cause tooth decay. In addition, several materials that slowly release fluoride over time, which will help prevent further decay, are being explored. These materials would be placed between teeth or in pits and fissures of teeth. Toothpaste and mouth rinse that can reverse and “heal” early cavities are also being studied.
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