Did you know that tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children and adults in the United States? Over 90% of American adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have had cavities, and worldwide, between 60 and 90% of school-aged children suffer from untreated cavities. Tooth decay can can cause a number of issues when left untreated, but luckily there are also a number of ways people can protect their teeth from the damaging effects of tooth decay. Taking preventive steps, like visiting your dentist office for regular checkups, can help keep teeth healthy. Understanding what causes tooth decay and knowing how to prevent it can save you a lot of trouble down the road.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is the destruction of the enamel of the teeth and can result in tiny holes, or cavities. There are a number of things that can lead to tooth decay, including bacteria, sugary food and drinks, and improper dental care. The most common foods and drinks that cause teeth to decay are dried fruit, hard candies, cookies, soda and fruit juices. Not only do they contain large amounts of sugar, which is the predominant cause of tooth decay, but they also cling to your teeth, making it difficult for saliva to break them down. Neglecting to brush and floss teeth on a regular basis also leads to tooth decay. Brushing and flossing help to remove food particles that get lodged between teeth.
What are the Effects of Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay can have a number of damaging effects, ranging from moderate to more severe. Moderate damage includes tooth pain, tooth abscess, difficulty chewing, broken teeth and shifting teeth. More severe effects of tooth decay are more severe pain that may be intolerable, weight loss and nutrition deficiencies due to difficulty eating, tooth loss and hazardous infections. It is extremely important to be aware of these issues and ask a dentist to look at your teeth if you are experiencing these problems.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Tooth Decay?
While some people are more prone to tooth decay and cavities simply due to genetics, there are still a number of ways to prevent it. Starting prevention at a young age is the key to keeping teeth problem-free. Parents should find a dentist for their children by the time they are one, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). A pediatric dentist can educate both children and parents on healthy dental habits and provide them with regular dental care at a dentist office. The AAPD also recommends treating children with fluoride as soon as their first tooth appears. Other healthy habits include brushing teeth and flossing twice a day.
Over 35 million Americans are missing all of their teeth. You can avoid this fate by taking good care of your teeth at home and visiting your local dentist office for regular checkups. Practicing good dental habits is the first and most important step to maintaining a happy, healthy smile.