Quick, what’s the best way to keep yourself (or your kids) from getting cavities?
Did you say, “Brush your teeth twice a day”? Or, “Stop eating sweet treats between meals”? How about “Avoid sodas and other sugary drinks”?
These are all good answers—and taken together, they form a practical foundation for improving your oral health. What all of these things have in common is that they aim to prevent the enamel coating of your teeth—the hard, white outer surface that protects them from decay—from being eroded, dissolved or eaten away. And in each case, the culprit responsible for damaging tooth enamel is acid.
Even though enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, consisting of over 95 percent minerals, it can still be dissolved in acids that are sometimes present in the mouth. When the enamel is weakened or eroded, decay bacteria can penetrate into the tooth’s softer inner pulp and cause severe damage. Left untreated, a small cavity—even a tiny hole in the enamel—can result in a painful infection, and can eventually lead to tooth loss and other problems.
What many people don’t realize is that there are two different ways that acids can attack teeth.
One is through harmful oral bacteria. When you consume sugary foods or drinks, the sugar becomes food for certain bacteria that live in close proximity to your teeth. After they have processed sugar, these microorganisms release acids that begin eating away at the enamel coating of your teeth. If allowed to get out of control, the acids released can quickly de-mineralize small areas of enamel; that’s how a cavity starts to form.
One major goal of oral hygiene is to control these harmful bacteria by removing them from tooth surfaces. This should be done via regular brushing and flossing, as well as professional cleanings at the dental office. The fluoride in toothpaste can also help to re-mineralize enamel, which adds to its cavity resistance—and can even reverse very early decay. That’s why it’s so important to practice these preventive measures.
But there’s also another way that acid can erode teeth: by attacking them directly. Many foods and beverages contain high levels of acid to begin with. Citrus fruits, soda—even diet sodas and many so-called ‘sports’ or ‘energy’ drinks—may have enough acid to get the demineralization process started in just minutes.
The body does have a natural defense against acid attack: healthy saliva, which can neutralize the acids if given sufficient time to work. However, if the mouth is constantly bathed in acid (by drinking soda frequently, for example), saliva won’t be able to counteract the threat. You might think that brushing your teeth after drinking soda is a good idea—but since acid softens tooth enamel, brushing too soon afterward can actually cause more enamel to be removed!
So what should you do to avoid acid attack? Here are some tips:
* Avoid sugary or acidic beverages. Choose healthier alternatives, like water or milk.
* If you allow sugary foods or drinks, wait for mealtimes to consume them, and avoid between-meal treats; this will give your saliva a chance to work in between meals.
* After consuming acidic substances, wait an hour before brushing so your tooth enamel won’t be as soft.
* Rinse with water after a sweet treat; this can help wash away some of the acidity.
* Practice good oral hygiene daily, and visit your dentist regularly.
To learn more call one of our :DP AtYourService Customer Care Representatives at 1-800-238-5163.