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Risk Factors for Tooth Decay and How to Manage Them

Did you know tooth decay is the most common disease worldwide? While it might not be life-threatening, treating tooth decay can be costly without prompt dental care in Newcastle, and you can lose time away from work or school during treatment. Also, tooth decay can cause toothache which is never pleasant!

Traditionally, tooth decay is treated by drilling and filling the affected tooth, and which is very effective at eliminating decay and restoring the tooth. However, over the past few decades, we have learned much more about why tooth decay in Clarington develops, and why some people have recurrent problems with tooth decay while others have strong and healthy teeth, even when they share the same oral hygiene and dietary habits. Several factors can increase your risk of tooth decay and identifying these can help us to devise a preventative dental care plan so that together we can manage the risk more effectively.

Saliva is a major risk factor and especially a lack of it. Did you realize that normally your saliva glands produce approximately 2 litres of saliva every day? When you have enough saliva, it helps your mouth to maintain a neutral pH and protects your teeth. This protection is essential because whenever you eat, the process of digestion begins in your mouth. As particles of food are broken down during chewing, your saliva helps to reduce acidity levels as too much acid will begin to break down tooth enamel, increasing your risk of cavities. Unfortunately, lots of people don’t have enough saliva, which is a condition called dry mouth or xerostomia. As we age, we tend to produce less saliva naturally, and it’s a common side-effect of medications.

Diet is another major risk factor, and especially as most of us consume too much sugar every day. Sugar is added to many foods, sometimes where you least expect it, and sweetened beverages are another major contributory factor. These sugars are metabolized by bacteria that release acid, directly causing cavities.

When you eat makes a big difference, as whenever you have a meal, your mouth becomes more acidic for at least half an hour afterward. After half an hour, your saliva and helpful bacteria in the mouth create a more neutral pH level, protecting your teeth. If you prefer lots of smaller meals or frequent snacks, your mouth is exposed to more acid during the day, weakening your enamel. Sipping on sugary beverages is especially bad as the pH levels in your mouth will be lower and more acidic for longer.

The inside of your mouth is coated with a biofilm consisting of fluids, proteins, microorganisms and biochemical substances. Your biofilm is unique and plays a major part in whether you are susceptible to tooth decay. When you have a healthy biofilm, excess acids and harmful bacteria are more easily neutralized and kept under control. If your biofilm is more acidic, helpful bacteria will adapt to this environment and can behave more like bad bacteria, potentially causing tooth decay and other oral health problems.

Genetics plays a role, as there are between 40 and 50 genes that can increase your risk of developing tooth decay. Some affect tooth anatomy, or how much saliva you produce. Others may have a behavioural effect, such as giving you a sweet tooth!

When you visit West Bowmanville Family Dental, we can assess your risk of tooth decay and how to reduce it. For example, if you have dry mouth, we can work with you to reduce its impact on oral health. If we think diet is an issue, we can suggest ways to make it more tooth-friendly. Our Courtice dentists can also ensure your oral care routine is the very best possible, helping you enjoy an optimal level of oral health.

Oct 18, 2019 by

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