This is a common everyday question for us in our dental office. Patients and dentists are both frustrated because we seem to go round and round fixing and repairing teeth on the same people while other lucky patients never get cavities. So what is the secret of those patients that are not cavity prone?
Understanding the process of demineralization is important in eliminating bacteria that feed tooth decay.
Your saliva is one of the most important factors in maintaining oral health. A lack of saliva or dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, can have detrimental effects on your teeth. With over 400 medications on the market today that list dry mouth as a side effect, it is no wonder tooth decay is on the rise.
The pH or level of acidity in your saliva can also be a contributing factor to cavities. The higher the level of acidity in your mouth, the more the enamel will demineralize. Enamel is the hardest substance in our bodies, so the initial stages of demineralization can be slow. This process leads to loss of structure in enamel which in turn leaves the teeth more susceptible to cavities. When enamel is broken down, harmful bacteria can thrive and cause cavities. Teeth naturally go through the process of demineralization but this process is balanced by remineralization (rebuilding of the broken down enamel) due to calcium and phosphate in our saliva. Demineralization can happen in minutes while remineralization can take a few hours. Therefore, it is important to have balance in our saliva to allow the process of rebuilding the tooth enamel. Acidity in saliva from frequent snacking and eating and drinking acidic foods doesn’t allow the balance your tooth needs to repair itself. This imbalance is the primary cause of tooth decay.
If you suffer from frequent cavities, your dentist may recommend to measure the pH of your saliva.
An acidic diet will lead to imbalance and lack of sufficient time for your tooth to repair itself. However, acids from the stomach can cause great harm as well. GERD (acid reflux) or frequent vomiting would demineralize enamel. If you suffer from these conditions, it is best to wait an hour for your saliva to help neutralize the acidity in your mouth before brushing. Swishing with a combination of baking soda and water can also help the initial neutralization. Frequent drinking of soda, coffee and sports drinks can throw off the balance in your saliva and lead to extensive tooth decay. For a list of acidic and alkaline foods see this chart.
3. Lack of professional dental appointments
Everyone knows that they should get their teeth professionally cleaned and a check up every six months. The reason for this is early detection. With the aid of modern technology we can detect small demineralized areas on your teeth and make recommendations to help halt the cavities. In some cases where the decay has moved all the way through the enamel, generally a filling will be recommended. With the aid of Diagnodent (laser cavity detection for chewing surfaces of teeth) and Carivu (transillumination for cavities in between the teeth) and digital X-rays, we can make the proper recommendations to restore your mouth back to health.
4. Poor oral Hygiene
Plaque, a biproduct of food, is a sticky film that remains on your teeth, producing acids and demineralizes teeth. It is important to brush your teeth after you eat and floss your teeth at least once a day to remove the sticky film from in between your teeth where the toothbrush cannot reach. Proper brushing and flossing also helps prevent gum disease. Gum disease is the silent killer of your teeth and has serious ill effects on your overall health.
1. Avoid acidic foods
2. Aim for a balanced diet, avoiding sugary and starchy foods. Frequent snacking leads to constant exposure of teeth to bacterial by-products.
3. Use Fluoridated toothpastes. Fluoride strengthens your teeth so they can fight back against the acids.
4. Proper oral hygiene, brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day preferably at night. When we sleep, our saliva decreases leaving teeth very susceptible to tooth decay. Therefore, if you are going to floss only once a day, be sure it is at night time. Dip your floss in a fluoride mouth rinse to strengthen the susceptible areas in between your teeth.
5. Clinpro toothpaste and other professionally dispensed Fluoride mouth rinses can aid in actual remineralization of small lesions.
6. Regular dental check ups and professional hygiene appointments will keep your teeth clean and strong and early cavities halted.
At our dental office in Escondido, California, we are here to help you solve your dental problems and prevent future ones. Call us at 760-747-1811 for a consultation and don’t forget to check out our new patient promotion.
© 2014 Dr. Christo Mallakis D.M.D.