Self-Care Revelation #1: Prevention Is the Best Medicine
Take Control of Your Oral Health
Here at Dallas Cosmetic Dental, Dr. Alhadef and his team believe patient education is an important key to maintaining optimum oral health. Patients who understand why they need treatment are more confident in the process and follow through with the necessary at-home care.
In fact, one of the biggest self-care revelations our patients come to realize is that in deed prevention is the best medicine.
How Decay and Gum Disease Happen
You know that you want to prevent decay and gum disease from developing, but do you know how they start? Here’s a quick refresher on how decay and gum disease develop and wreak havoc on your oral health.
Both decay and gum disease start with the buildup of plaque on the surface of the teeth. Plaque, and its hardened state tartar, contain bacteria that cause infection and decay.
Plaque and tartar will irritate gum tissue when left to build up on the teeth. In an attempt to get away from the irritant, the gums pull away from the tooth and begin to recede. As the gum tissue pulls away, a pocket forms. This newly formed pocket, however, only creates more space for plaque to build up, pushing against the gum line, and can lead to further recession. The deeper the gum pockets are, the deeper plaque bacteria can, and will, spread infection.
As your immune system works to fight off the infection, the surrounding bodily tissues are caught in the crossfire and become damaged too. Over time this damage results in the jaw bone decreasing in size. As the jaw bone becomes increasingly smaller and gum tissue pulls away, the teeth they once supported become loose and eventually fall out.
Turns out you aren’t the only one with a sweet tooth. In addition to causing infection, the bacteria in plaque also produce enamel-destroying acids. These bacteria readily consume the sugars found in processed grains and sweet treats, creating acids as they go. The acids created by plaque bacteria, along with those found in soda and citruses, break down the protective enamel layer by leaching it of the minerals that keep it strong. And once enamel is broken down it can’t be recreated.
The demineralization of enamel creates large pits in the surface of the tooth exposing the layers below to bacteria and decay. As bacteria and decay spread to the dentin and dental pulp of the tooth, a cavity is created. Left untreated, cavities continue to grow in size eventually rotting out the whole tooth.
Prevention at Home
The best thing you can do to keep cavities and gum disease at bay is to remain diligent about your brushing habits. You should brush for two minutes twice a day with a soft-bristled brush and fluoridated toothpaste.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that helps strengthen enamel as it is more resistant to demineralization caused by plaque acids. Through regular application, such as during brushing, fluoride is able to integrate with the other minerals that make up enamel, reinforcing it in the process.
You should also floss each day to remove the debris, plaque, and bacteria that build up between the teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. String floss is ideal as it is best able to fully hug around the body of each tooth.
Using an 18-inch strand wound between your fingers, with about an inch of working space between, carefully maneuver the floss between the teeth. Move the floss into a c-shape around each tooth while gently pulling it up the side of the tooth.
Maintaining Dental Visits
In addition to at-home care, adults should also visit the dentist for routine exams at least twice a year or as recommended by their treatment plan. Those who have gum disease need more frequent cleanings to effectively remove and manage the infection.
During your evaluation, the dental team will clean your teeth, removing any tartar that has built up—tartar, the hardened form of plaque, can’t be removed by a toothbrush and can only be removed by a professional. Routine dental exams are also crucial for early detection. In their beginning stages, dental caries (cavities) and gum disease aren’t felt or easily spotted by patients but are still a serious threat to your health.
Treat Issues as Soon as They Appear
The further infection and decay are allowed to spread, the more damage they inflict. The more damage they inflict, the more treatment they will require to restore your smile.
Treatment while these dental issues are still small saves as much of the natural tooth as possible, therefore preserving optimum oral health. Doing so will also keep your wallet happy as small restorations have smaller consequences and a lower cost than treatment for more severe dental issues will.