From the moment of your first tooth, you fight a battle against tooth decay. If you don't fight that battle, then your mouth becomes a place of deterioration and corruption. Luckily, even if you lose a few battles with tooth decay, you can still gain ground in the war. You just need to know what you're up against.
What You're Up Against
Tooth decay occurs as acid eats away at your tooth. It starts with the enamel and moves deeper into your dentin and finally starts to assault your pulp. This is where cavities come from, as well as other tooth issues such as infection. But where does that acid come from?
Dental plaque – Food particles leave behind bacteria. That bacteria forms into the film on teeth known as plaque. Plaque buildup is natural, but it needs regulation.
Plaque feeds on sugar and carbohydrates. When you eat sugary or sticky foods, the bacteria in the plaque eats as well. When the sugars combine with the bacteria, it creates acid. That acid in turn eats at your teeth.
Saliva is your main natural defense against this activity. Your saliva serves to wash your teeth and get rid of those sugars before they can become a danger. Saliva also works to repair the tooth's outer surface through remineralisation.
Unfortunately, saliva can only do so much. It can't penetrate plaque buildup that's already present. And if you're adding more sugar than it can handle, then there's not much it can do.
If You Choose to Do Nothing
If you do nothing, then the plaque buildup can turn into a number of nasty things. There's the tooth decay of course, but there's also things like:
- Tartar buildup
- Periodontal disease
- Sensitive teeth
- Bad breath
Plaque buildup can lead to just about every other type of dental problem possible. But don't worry, there's something you can definitely do about it.
So, your one natural weapon, saliva, needs help. The good news is that dealing with plaque and the onset of tooth decay isn't actually difficult. A toothbrush and some floss is all you really need. Brushing breaks up the plaque and flossing finds the bacteria hidden between your teeth.
Fluoride helps as well by making your teeth more resistant to acids. Your own dietary habits can help or hinder you as well. Avoiding a lot of sugars and eating balanced meals goes a long way towards keeping the acidity in your mouth in check.
Bringing in Allies
Beyond brushing, flossing, and diet, you also need to see your dentist regularly. You don't have to go all the time, but a visit at least once a year is fine. If you smoke, are diabetic, or have any current dental issues, then you may want to go twice a year.
A dentist can make sure you're not developing any issues. A dentist can also help you figure out what areas of dental hygiene you may need to work at. They're your best ally when it comes to the war against tooth decay.