What is Tooth Decay and How to Prevent it
These two simple changes will help prevent tooth decay
Over 3 million Americans suffer from tooth decay each year, and much of that can be prevented through two simple changes– the drinks you consume and how you clean your teeth. Tooth decay comes from the sugary bacteria that loves to feed on your healthy tooth enamel. Enamel is the hardest substance in our bodies and acts like a protective shield around our teeth. But sugary enamel results in the breakdown of the outer enamel of your teeth, commonly known as tooth decay. Over time, tooth decay creates havoc in your mouth, especially as you age. Once enamel is eroded, it does not grow back; the damage is permanent.
The American Dental Association (ADA) defines tooth decay as… Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat or drink foods containing sugars, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth and over time the enamel can break down.
Help Prevent Your Teeth from Decaying
Create new habits. You can form a new habit by consistent repetition over a 66 day period (so say the experts), so mark your calendar and let’s get started!
- Each day, substitute at least two of your sugar-containing drinks with an unsweetened drink. It’s difficult for most people to make drastic changes in their eating habits, so start one step at a time by simply switching two drinks a day that contain sugar with an unsweetened substitute. Common drinks you might switch out are a morning glass of juice, a soda drink at lunch or a sweetened coffee beverage. Healthy substitutes might include a glass of water, glass of sparkling water, glass of unsweetened tea. To help you make the transition, add fresh lemon to your drinks or a sprig of mint. You’ll feel and taste the refreshing difference as sugary drinks will actually make you feel more thirsty and sluggish in the long run. Challenge yourself each week by substituting more drinks each day.
- Clean your mouth at least 3x/day.
- When you wake up before eating breakfast, brush your teeth.
- Brush again after breakfast.
- Brush and floss before going to bed.
If you don’t, those pesky bacteria will be feeding on your tooth enamel while you sleep, and losing enamel is irreversible.
Another way to look at tooth decay is to consider that each time you consume a sugary drink or food item, you are inviting bacteria to dinner with your tooth enamel as their meal! That thought alone may help you make different choices as to what you let impact your teeth.
An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Ideally, you need strong, healthy teeth for the duration of your life, so begin investing in their longevity today. Not only will you feel and look better, but you’ll also save time and money better spent out of the dental chair!