Dental Hygiene Tips for Preventing Tooth Decay
Tooth decay can develop slowly and go undetected for a long time. When left untreated, tooth decay puts you at risk of having tooth infections and possibly needing to have a root canal or tooth extractions done. However, there are ways to prevent tooth decay from occurring through good dental hygiene habits.
What Is Tooth Decay?
When the enamel or outer surface of your tooth becomes damaged, this is known as tooth decay or dental caries. This damage occurs when acids eat away at tooth enamel that normally protects your teeth. As you lose enamel, your teeth begin to decay. Tooth decay can lead to infections and other problems, so it’s important to understand what causes it and take steps to reduce your risk.
Causes of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay starts to occur when plaque forms on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky, clear coating that covers your teeth, especially after eating starchy or sugary foods. Bacteria feed on sugars and starches on your teeth, causing plaque to form. You can remove plaque when you brush, but any remaining plaque hardens and becomes tartar or calculus. Tartar can form above your gums or under the gum line, making it harder to remove without a professional dental cleaning.
As plaque and tartar form on your teeth, the acids they contain erode your tooth enamel. Small holes begin to form on the affected teeth as enamel wears away. Without treatment, dental caries can reach the inner layers of your teeth, known as dentin and pulp. Your risk of tooth decay is higher if you don’t practice good dental hygiene at home or have routine cleanings done. Other risk factors include having low saliva production from certain medications and eating a lot of sugary or starchy foods, especially if you snack often.
Tooth Decay Prevention Tips
Preventing tooth decay is important to stop it from progressing. Keep in mind that you might not notice tooth decay is occurring until it’s too late. To prevent tooth decay, you should have dental cleanings and checkups done twice a year. This helps remove tartar and plaque buildup and ensures that tooth decay is caught and treated early.
Dental hygiene tips that prevent tooth decay include brushing regularly and properly. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day, especially after eating and drinking, to remove sugars and starches that attract bacteria. When you brush, use fluoride toothpaste to help strengthen your tooth enamel. Clean between your teeth as well by flossing. Using a mouth rinse that contains fluoride might also help lower your risk of tooth decay.
Risks of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay can put you at risk of developing an infection. When bacteria from tooth decay reaches the inner part of your tooth, or pulp, it can result in an infection that requires a root canal. These infections can form an abscess and spread to other parts of your body when left untreated. You might have signs of deterioration from tooth decay if you have tooth sensitivity, pain or discomfort in your teeth, or noticeable holes in your teeth. If you have an abscess, you might have symptoms such as fever, swelling, and severe tooth pain. You should have your teeth checked for tooth decay, so you can have the treatment done as soon as possible.
Root Canals as Tooth Decay Treatment
A root canal offers a way to treat tooth decay that doesn’t involve removing the affected teeth. This allows you to keep your natural teeth, even if they have tooth decay. Root canals involve clearing away infected material from the pulp in your teeth, as well as the tooth roots, then sealing them up to prevent infections from occurring again. This helps eliminate tooth decay and infections while leaving the natural tooth in place.
A pulpotomy is another endodontic treatment that can be used as a tooth decay treatment. This involves removing pulp in the crown of the affected tooth while leaving the tooth roots in place. After the crown and infected or decayed material is removed, the tooth is filled and covered with a replacement crown to keep bacteria out. This procedure is usually done more often in children with tooth decay in their baby teeth. However, it can be used as a tooth decay treatment in adults who only have decay and infections in the top of their teeth.
A pulpectomy is an endodontic treatment that involves taking out all of a tooth’s pulp and roots when infections and decay are present. This procedure is often followed up with a root canal.
If you have symptoms of tooth decay, contact Largo Endodontics for an appointment. Our endodontist, Dr. Ernest Rillman, can check the affected teeth and determine the right treatment for tooth decay.
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