Dental caries (tooth decay) is similar to the pesky bumblebee that invades your lovely summer barbecue. You can find temporary solace from this intruder by eliminating that very first bee that you see, but if you are situated in an area that is close to the bee's nest, it won't be long before the next bee buzzes along. This is similar to tooth decay. Having one cavity-laden tooth drilled and filled is really just a temporary fix. The underlying conditions that led to tooth decay in the first place need to be addressed in order for your risk of future infection to decrease.
Researcher Dr. John Featherstone created the concept of the Caries Balance in 2002, in which he explained that tooth decay and overall dental health are dependent upon a proper balance of disease-causing and health-promoting factors. Discovering what the fundamental problem really is (and getting as far away from that hornet's nest as possible) can help both determine and curb your risk for future tooth decay.
Here's the issue in a nutshell: Susceptible teeth, in the presence of acid producing bacteria when fed by sugar from your diet, basically, will create all the conditions necessary to cause tooth decay.
To determine your risk for tooth decay, see how many times you answer “Yes” to the following questions:
- Do you brush your teeth twice a day to reduce bacterial plaque sticking to the teeth?
- Do you use fluoride toothpaste to strengthen the teeth against acid attack?
- Do you use a fluoride mouthrinse?
- Do you floss daily?
Every affirmative answer decreases your risk of getting cavities, but even doing all of this may not be enough!
Now, how many times can you answer “Yes” to these questions?:
- Do you smoke? Smoking causes mouth dryness, and creates a host of other health problems.
- Do you snack frequently between meals? One sugary snack and your mouth is acidic for the next hour. One snack per hour and your mouth is acidic all day.
- Do you frequently have acid reflux or heartburn? Reflux creates extreme acidity in the mouth and directly erodes tooth enamel.
- Do you drink soda, sports drinks, or acidic beverages frequently? These beverages are very acidic.
- Is your mouth frequently dry? Do you take any medications that cause mouth dryness? Saliva is nature's own defense against acidity and helps neutralize acid in the mouth.
- Have you had frequent cavities in the past and/or have you had any crowns or fillings in the past three months? The best indicator of future disease is past disease!
Every affirmative answer increases your risk of getting cavities!
Now that you are a little more knowledgeable about your personal risk for tooth decay, make an appointment with us to discuss the preventative measures that can give you some control over the future condition of your teeth. Ignoring the risks and then ending up with a mouth full of rotting teeth when you knew better could really sting a little!
To learn even more about the delicate balance between the disease causing and protective factors related to tooth decay, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay: How To Assess Your Risk.”