It is easy to ignore; but, a small cavity or bleeding and swollen gums will inevitably become worse if left untreated. Given time, untreated tooth decay and/or gum disease can lead to pain, emergency treatment, and tooth loss.
What causes tooth decay and gum disease?
Millions of bacteria live in our mouths. Many of them are harmless and some are even beneficial. However, certain types of bacteria can wreak havoc on the hard and soft tissues in the mouth. Bacteria are living creatures that need an energy source. Carbohydrates from our diet are an energy source for the bacteria in our mouths.
Like all living creatures, bacteria consume energy and produce waste. In the mouth, some bacteria produce acidic waste that erodes the enamel on teeth which leads to tooth decay by creating holes in the teeth which are often referred to as cavities.
Dentists identify tooth decay (cavities) with regular xrays and clinical examinations. If tooth decay is identified when it is small in size, a dentist can remove the decay and place a routine filling. However, if tooth decay is left untreated, it can become extensive and a patient may need a crown, a root canal, or even extraction of the tooth.
In patients who neglect their oral care, certain bacteria in the mouth produce a toxic waste that causes chronic inflammation of the gums and destruction of the jawbone surrounding the teeth. In dentistry, this is known as periodontal disease.
You may have heard about chronic inflammation leading to medical problems in other areas of the body. Chronic inflammation in the mouth (periodontal disease) has been linked to increased rates of heart disease, diabetes and some kinds of cancer. Maintaining a healthy mouth is a critical part of maintaining good health.
A few tips for maintaining a healthy mouth:
- Brush and floss twice a day: Consistent daily brushing and flossing removes sticky bacterial plaque that leads to tooth decay, gum disease, and other health problems.
- Brush for at least two minutes each time: It sounds like a long time but it makes a difference. We recommend using an electric sonic toothbrush. Please ask us about the electric toothbrush before you purchase one.
- Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly: Bacteria linger on your toothbrush, finding their way back into the mouth at the next use.
- Keep sugary drinks, starchy foods, and desserts to a minimum: Foods high in starch and sugar provide fuel to bacteria. Despite diligent brushing and flossing, sugary and starchy foods serve as catalysts for tooth decay. Be moderate, and avoid snacking between meals.
- Drink sugary liquids through a straw: A straw helps keep sugar from bathing the teeth directly before swallowing.
- Drink water after eating a meal: Swishing with water helps clean larger deposits of food from your teeth. Plus, we all could use a little more hydration!
- Get cavities treated immediately: Cavities rarely hurt until they reach a critical stage. And don’t forget: a little bit of tooth decay eventually becomes a little bit more.
- See a dentist every six months: The risk of critical dental problems diminishes significantly if you’re visiting us twice a year. Patients that fit preventive dentistry into their budget typically enjoy fewer dental expenditures over time than those who wait for emergencies to develop.