We’re supposed to believe that nothing lasts forever—”ashes to ashes, dust to dust” and all that. While it’s certainly true that time marches on—and on, and on—it doesn’t mean that we should simply surrender to it. Especially not when it comes to our dental and oral health.
Tooth decay might seem like one of those inevitabilities of time—something that happens no matter what you do—but the truth is that you can keep an age-defying smile long after the Rockies have turned to rubble. Alright, perhaps not quite that long but there’s no reason you can’t have a winning smile as long as you need one.
If you take proper care of your teeth, your smile may just outlast both Stonehenge and the Pyramids.
What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay—or, as your dentist may refer to it, dental caries or cavities—is the breakdown of teeth caused by harmful bacteria in the mouth. These microscopic ne’er-do-wells “feed” off of food particles left over in our mouths after we consume our favourite meals and drinks. When they “digest” those tiny food particles, they produce acids that, in turn, break down the hard tissues of our teeth (i.e., enamel, dentin and cementum) and leave the sensitive tissue beneath open to infection.
Though you would need a microscope to see the bacteria up close, there’s an easy way to tell whether or not they’ve found a suitable home in your mouth. Over time, cavity-causing bacteria accumulate and form a biofilm that we call dental plaque. Beneath that thin layer of plaque, the bacteria are hard at work, eroding your tooth enamel and getting comfy in your gums, causing caries and, potentially, gum disease.
Though no amount of tooth decay is “good”, not all dental caries and cavities are the same. Dentists will classify tooth decay by location on the tooth and by the rate and state of progression. However, even small cavities if left untreated, can worsen. In extreme cases, cavities can result in tooth loss requiring veneers or implants to replace.
How to Get a Smile That Lasts a Lifestyle
In order for the bacteria that cause tooth decay to thrive and multiply, they need the food particles leftover from our meals. If someone really wanted to, they could starve those bacteria by only drinking water for the rest of time… but they’ll starve themselves first. If you’re not too keen on an ill-advised water-only diet but you also want your smile to last, follow these simple steps to prevent cavities.
- Daily Dental Care
The best way to protect your teeth and gums is to keep your mouth clean by staying on top of your twice-daily oral care routine. Brush your teeth and floss once in the morning after you wake up and once again in the night just before bed. The American Dental Association recommends fluoride toothpaste—or toothpaste containing fluoride—as they help to strengthen and remineralize tooth enamel. Finish off your routine with an antiseptic mouthwash and send those bacteria down the drain!
- Rinse Regularly
In some circumstances, dentists will recommend brushing and flossing after every meal. However, excessive or compulsive brushing can erode your gumline and create more problems than it solves. However, it’s nearly impossible to over-rinse your mouth! If you want to maintain your minty fresh breath after every meal, you can rinse out your mouth with mouthwash to loosen food particles and kill bacteria. Even warm salt rinses can remineralize your teeth, balance out your mouth’s pH level and kill off bad bacteria.
- Watch Your Diet
Having spinach stuck in between your teeth can ruin a photo or two and cause some mild embarrassment but it likely won’t shorten your smile’s life expectancy. Having some gummy candy stuck in your teeth, however, can age your smile by years in just a matter of days. The cavity-causing bacteria in our mouths are not too dissimilar from us; they love sugary foods! Quite apart from the fact that sugars and starches tend to stick to our teeth more readily than other foods, those monosaccharides—or simple sugars—are also the preferred meal of cavity-causing bacteria. To prevent cavities, stick to a low-sugar diet or make sure that you floss and rinse after eating high-sugar foods.
- Visit the Dentist
Even if you stay on top of your oral care routine, rinse regularly and cut sugar out of your diet, you’ll still need the help of a dentist to get that lasting smile. Over time, dental plaque hardens and forms a substance called tartar. Tartar usually builds up in the areas of your mouth that, no matter how you contort yourself, remain out of your reach. On a regular visit, your dentist will remove tartar and inspect your teeth for any early warning signs of dental caries.
- Get Dental Sealants
Enamel is the protective coating on our teeth but… what protects enamel? If you really need a smile that will stand—or shine through—the test of time, then talk to your dentist about dental sealants. There are different kinds of dental sealants so talk to your dentist about which type is right for you. Even with sealants, however, you’ll still need to stay on top of your regular dental care routine.
Grundy Family Dental Will Always Be There
There’s no reason that, with the help of the Grundy Family Dental team, you can’t be smiling long after the apocalypse has come and gone. Learn more about our general dentistry services and extend the life of your naturally flawless smile by booking your next appointment with us today!