Timing and frequency of sugar intake and keeping a neutral pH environment in the mouth are key factors in the prevention of tooth decay. Decay causing bacteria produce acids that dissolve tooth structure. The natural action of saliva and fluorides buffer the acids, and can harden and rebuild the tooth surface with the minerals calcium and phosphate.
The more frequent the intake of sugar, the longer the acid is on the tooth, leaving no time to neutralise it, resulting in the loss of minerals from the tooth surface until a cavity forms. Lack of saliva and an acidic environment (low pH) in your mouth greatly increase the risk of decay.
Preventing Tooth Decay
The two major causes of mouth problems are tooth decay and gum disease, which can now be prevented for most people by having a proper diet and good oral hygiene. The following guidelines will help to improve your dental health.
- Plan a diet, which includes milk and milk products, fruit and vegetables, fish, lean meat and poultry, breads and cereals
- Cut down on grazing
- When grazing eat the ‘safe’ types of foods
- Restrict sweets and sugary foods to meal times
- Avoid sugar in tea and coffee
- Avoid frequent consumption of black cola type softdrinks
- Avoid low pH situations in your mouth (acidic environment)
- Keep well hydrated – drink plenty of water
- Chew sugar free gum to stimulate saliva flow
- Use Xylitol products (gum pastilles, mouthspray)
- Brush teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Floss 3-7 times a week
- See you dentist for a check up at least once a year.
Did you know:
- Recently published research has also cited a link between gum disease and heart disease
- Gum disease is actually a disease of the jaw bone. Bacterial toxins cause destruction of the bone surrounding the teeth.
- Gum disease is not painful until it’s too late.
- Untreated disease leads to loose teeth, infection, abscess and tooth loss.
- It is the second most prevalent illness next to that of the common cold.
Recognise the early signs of gum disease:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Bad breath
- Red puffy gums
- Have your gum health check at your dentist at least once a year
- Have your teeth professionally cleaned by a hygienist at least once a year
- In gum disease or periodontal disease, gum tissues are damaged by the activity of bacteria in plaque.
- If a gum pocket develops, toxic bacteria increase in numbers destroying the gum and bone surrounding your tooth.
- An abscess may form.
- Eventually this leads to the loss of the tooth.
Tips for preventing gum disease
- Brush your teeth morning and night. Plaque is the enemy, which must be removed from the gum area
- Use a soft toothbrush, and hold bristles at 45 degrees to gum line and jiggle back and forward massaging the area where gum meets tooth
- Electric toothbrushes are very efficient plaque removers
- Brush for 2 minutes if possible
- Flossing and interdental brushes
- Plaque grows between teeth as well and cleaning this area is important.
- Flossing your teeth should be done once a day to remove plaque that builds up between the teeth and under the gum line, and cannot be removed with a toothbrush.
- Interdental brushes are miniature bottle brushes and are an alternative to floss, especially if there are larger gaps between your teeth
- To begin flossing take about 40 cm of floss and wind it round your fingers. Next grip the floss with your index finger and thumb and guide the floss between the teeth using a gentle sawing motion. Using an up and down motion, scrape the sides of the teeth, and just beneath gum line. Floss between all teeth.
- Your gums may bleed or feel tender after flossing and brushing with a new technique. This should settle in a few days. If bleeding or soreness lasts for more than a few days however, check with your dentist.
If your teeth have not been cleaned professionally for a year or more it is likely there will be hard deposit (calculus) which must be removed by a Dentist or Hygienist. See a Dentist or Hygienist for regular cleaning and advice.
- The dental diseases, tooth decay and gum disease, are usually ‘silent’ in the early phases. There may be little or no discomfort until the tooth or gum is severely affected.
- Regular check ups are important – at least once a year.
- X rays are important to detect hidden disease or abnormalities.
- Don’t ignore a broken tooth or filling just because it does not hurt. Small problems can quickly turn into big problems.
- Sensitivity to hot and cold, discomfort when chewing, and change in tooth colour may indicate that something is wrong with a tooth.