Kokua Smiles: Battling Tooth Decay

Tooth Decay

Despite its prevalence, we don't want patients to think they're destined for tooth decay, even if they've had difficulty avoiding it. Many factors contribute to your oral health but be assured that at our practice, you're in the hands of compassionate decay prevention experts.

Anyone who's been to the dentist knows we have many more tools than just a toothbrush & floss for caring for your teeth. In addition to removing plaque, our arsenal of hand tools & handpieces is designed to remove hardened deposits called tartar or calculus that are hard for you to remove yourself using just a toothbrush & floss. During a cleaning visit, we also check your teeth for existing signs of decay. If we find a problem, we will talk to you about fixing it as soon as possible with a filling, a crown, or another treatment if the decay is more severe. Of course, our favorite outcome is when we find no decay at all. Understanding how decay starts is a great way to solidify your understanding of how to prevent it.

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What Is Tooth Decay?

Statistically speaking, tooth decay is the second most common illness humans suffer from (number one is the common cold). If left untreated, tooth decay can lead to pain & more severe problems such as abscesses or systemic infections, not to mention tooth loss. Data indicates that almost every adult has had tooth decay at some point. Our goal is to reverse this trend, at the very least, in our local community. We aim to educate our patients about how tooth decay happens & how to prevent it.

One myth emerged from how we were taught about tooth decay & cavities as children: avoid sugar & you can avoid cavities. There is no single thing you can do to prevent tooth decay. Instead, preventing cavities is a collection of good habits, maintenance & professional attention. The steps for a decay-free smile, in no particular order, are a healthy diet, a thorough daily hygiene routine & seeing us regularly for teeth cleanings & checkups.

Causes of Tooth Decay

Just like other parts of your body, your mouth is populated by both good & bad bacteria. When you don't care for yourself properly, you can create an environment where the bad (i.e., pathogenic) bacteria get the upper hand. In particular, these bacteria thrive when there is plenty of sugar to consume, which they digest & excrete as acid. This acid damages your teeth, eating into your tooth enamel & the softer dentin layer underneath. Eating highly acidic foods (lemons, tomatoes, soft drinks, etc.) can also weaken & even wear away your teeth.

Keeping Your Mouth Healthy

If your mouth is in an ideal condition, your body's immune responses & mechanisms, such as healthy saliva containing tooth-building minerals, repair damage & keep harmful bacteria from getting out of control. The goal of preventing decay is always to keep your mouth in this healthy, balanced condition. If you brush & floss correctly, get enough fluoride, limit your consumption of acidic or sugary foods & visit the dentist regularly, this should be easy for you.

Guidance On Preventing Tooth Decay

However, some patients have a more challenging time preventing tooth decay & we are happy to provide guidance. If you've had a few run-ins with cavities, you may need a refresher course on brushing or flossing techniques, which we're happy to provide on your next visit. You can also boost the effectiveness of your at-home hygiene with special toothpaste, mouth rinses, toothbrushes, or floss options. We're happy to recommend these products if we think they will benefit you.

Nutritional counseling is another option to ensure decay-causing bacteria don't get too much fuel. In children whose hygiene skills are still developing, sealing the deepest grooves on their back teeth can help prevent decay until they're older & better at caring for their teeth.