Dr. Jeffrey Cranska
Family Laser Dentistry
American eating habits have changed. We are no longer a three-meals-a-day society. The fast food industry generates $200 billion a year and is growing. We eat more premade foods and snacks throughout the day than ever before. More sugar, more acid, increased frequency, and less time to produce saliva during eating leads to more tooth decay.
Q: What is tooth decay?
A: Tooth decay (dental caries) is a bacterial disease. In their mouth, each person has bacteria, which cause caries. These bacteria form a plaque (sticky bacterial biofilms) on teeth, and sugar from the diet is turned into acid by these bacteria, which causes decalcification of the tooth, destroys the tooth enamel and allows decay to occur.
Q: Why do some people have problems with decay and others don’t?
A: Diet, oral hygiene and your body’s resistance are factors. This problem relates to nutrition and eating habits. The high-frequency ingestion of sugar (starchy foods, candies, sodas and sports drinks) leads to tooth decay. The average teenager drinks more than 60 gallons of soft drinks per year. Starches are broken down by mouth enzymes to sugars, and sugars are broken down into acids. These acids then break down the tooth. After the last intake of sugar, tooth plaque bacteria give off acids for up to 20 minutes. If you constantly sip and snack, your teeth can’t fight the constant production of acid, so demineralization occurs. Increase your water intake.
Once tooth enamel is destroyed, the only treatment is the placement of a restoration at the dentist.
Everyone with existing fillings has to deal with breakdown over time. These restorations eventually weaken, leak and fracture around the edges. Bacteria accumulate in these crevices, which cannot be cleaned. Acid is produced and decay occurs. The decay needs to be removed and the restorations need to be replaced.
Q: What can I do to prevent tooth decay?
A: Everyone has bacteria, which forms plaque. To prevent tooth destruction, you must remove the plaque. This is done by daily brushing and flossing. Brush at least twice a day. Floss once a day.
Consume fluoridated water or fluoride tablets during the time of tooth development (pre-natal to 12 years old). Use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride strengthens teeth and aids in limiting the acid effect on tooth enamel.
Regular dental examinations and professional cleanings remove plaque and calculus (mineralized plaque). A dentist will administer fluoride treatments and treat caries early with fillings.
Dental sealants (plastic protective coverings) can be applied to the biting surfaces of back teeth; these seal the grooves where almost 90 percent of decay occurs, preventing decay from occurring when in place.
Dental caries is not completely preventable. No vaccine is available to prevent this common disease. Limit tooth destruction with a diet of regular meals and less sugar, and limit snacking throughout the day.