Written by Chris Scalise
Some oral problems are genetic, such as an overbite or a case of dry mouth. For the most part, however, you’re in charge of your teeth. Decay occurs when you don’t take care of them. Maybe you’re eating the wrong foods, or slacking off on your oral care routine. But you can always fix the problem and change up your habits to prevent future damage.
Poor Nutritional Choices
What you eat and drink has a profound effect on your teeth. That’s why it’s critical to start early and teach children about healthy nutrition. After all, kids (and adults!) tend to love all of the beverages and treats that are bad for their teeth. Sugary foods are the worst.
Sugar has a party with oral bacteria, which creates acid that does significant damage to tooth enamel. However, you have to realize that candy isn’t the only sugar-spun culprit. Fruit has sugar, too, and dried fruit has even more. Yogurt, pudding, cake, cookies—all of those sweet treats can lead to decay unless they’re eaten in moderation. Sugary drinks are no better. You know that soda can lead to cavities and decay, but were you aware that some fruit juices can do the same thing?
Go easy on starchy foods, too. Bread, chips, cookies, crackers, and similar foods are high in starch. In your mouth, the starch breaks down into simple sugars. At that point, sugar once again works with bacteria to create acid.
Acidic foods are problematic, as well. Citrus fruits have acid that can eat away at the enamel of the teeth. Even bread and fish contain acid. Soda and fruit juice form a double threat here. Energy drinks are especially dangerous on the acid and sugar front. It’s not necessary to cut out all of these foods, but always eat in moderation, with proper oral hygiene after.
Even a quick rinse is helpful until you can get to your toothbrush. Look for healthy snacking alternatives, as well. Stick with vegetables that can help to clean the teeth as you chew, such as raw broccoli and celery.
Lax Oral Hygiene Habits
Tooth decay doesn’t just happen. If you don’t brush and floss regularly, then your smile will suffer the consequences.
Both adults and children should brush their teeth at least twice a day, and floss once. Younger children have baby teeth that will eventually be replaced, but the point is to instill healthy habits. That involves leading by example. Teach your child how to brush correctly.
You need the right tools for the job. Choose an age-appropriate toothbrush, a healthy toothpaste, and floss. You may also consider a water-pik for deep cleaning. Floss sticks are convenient, too. Find what works for you because as long as it cleans your teeth, it’s a fine choice.
Everyone needs to visit the dentist regularly. Usually, once every six months is sufficient. Some children may need to go more frequently than twice a year, however. Anyone with cavities, a crooked bite, or gum issues will have to go more often.
Grinding the Teeth
Most people who grind their teeth don’t even realize it. They wake up with a sore mouth, an aching jaw, or a headache, but they typically attribute the problems to stress, sleeping wrong, or something else. Teeth grinding usually happens while you’re sound asleep, although it can crop up during tense situations, as well.
Grinding causes decay because it erodes the outer layer of the enamel on your teeth. It literally grinds it away, and you probably aren’t even aware of it. Fortunately, your dentist should pick up on the habit, which is relatively easy to fix. All you need is a bite guard, which can work for children as well as adults.
Are you guilty of these things that cause tooth decay? See your dentist, have a family meeting, and make a plan to fix it! Be true to your teeth and they won’t ever be false to you.