North River Dental Care

Tooth Decay 101

Brunette woman smiles and holds a magnifying glass over her smile free of cavities and tooth decay

Fall is here, which means cooler winds, falling leaves, and holiday traditions. Some of these holiday traditions may include foods that aren’t the best for your oral health. As we head into the cozy season of Halloween candy, pumpkin pie, gingerbread, and candy canes, it’s important to protect yourself against tooth decay. Read on to learn how tooth decay develops. We also suggest a few cavity prevention tips.

How Tooth Decay Occurs

Enamel, the outer layer of teeth, demineralizes and breaks down with poor oral hygiene and an unhealthy diet. When oral bacteria consume your dietary sugar, they produce damaging acids that erode enamel. These bacteria accumulate into a sticky film called plaque. If plaque is not removed with effective daily at-home cleaning, it hardens into tartar. Tartar irritates gums and causes them to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets that can harbor bacteria. This further increases your risk for decay.

Often when patients think of tooth decay, they think of cavities, which are holes and pits in the teeth that cause sensitivity and pain. When decay reaches the cavity stage, it indicates permanent damage to the tooth that extends through multiple layers of the tooth. But the development of tooth decay is a gradual process; cavities don’t occur overnight. With early-stage decay, the outer layer of the tooth is temporarily weakened, but can be strengthened and remineralized with proper care.

Cavity Prevention Tips

To reverse early-stage decay, you must do things that both promote mineralization and prevent demineralization. First, daily dental hygiene is a must. Brush your teeth twice every day for two minutes each time with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride-containing toothpaste. Fluoride is a natural mineral that helps strengthen tooth enamel. Floss daily to remove food particles from in between teeth, and brush your tongue every day. If you’re traveling for the holidays, you may be tempted to skip your dental routine because of schedule changes. For optimal dental health, stay on top of your daily dental care and biannual visits to our office.

Additionally, stay hydrated with water, chew only sugar-free gum, and eat a balanced diet low in sugar and high in calcium and phosphorus. We understand that this can be hard around the holidays when sweets and treats are in abundance. You can still enjoy the flavors of the season, but do so in moderation. Whether you’re enjoying Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pie, or Christmas cookies, drink plenty of water to rinse out your mouth and increase your production of saliva.

Preventive Dental Care in Fredericksburg, VA

Let us know if you have any additional questions about how to protect your smile against tooth decay. And if it’s time to schedule your next routine dental appointment, contact us today.

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