Preventing Tooth Decay And Gum Disease

The two most common diseases in the world are tooth decay (90% of the population) and gum disease (30-50%).   This is why there are so many dentists!  Fortunately, both are largely preventable.  We believe that an ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure.

Contrary to popular belief, brushing and flossing do not prevent tooth decay (cavities)!  No matter how well you brush and floss, you cannot possibly get rid of all the bacteria we call “sugar bugs”.  They hide in places, like the pits and fissures (grooves) on the chewing surfaces of your back teeth and the microscopic spaces between a tooth and a filling or crown.  So, there are always sugar bugs on your teeth.  Every time you “feed” them (especially sucrose, or table sugar), they gobble up the sugar and produce acid for 30-60 minutes.  Sucrose shows up on ingredients labels as “sugar”, “brown sugar”, “corn syrup”, “honey” and “molasses” (to name a few).  Even if you brush and floss afterward, you can’t get rid of the sugar bugs, the sugar or the acid.  So, in order to prevent tooth decay, minimize the number of times you get sugar in your mouth! You are likely feeding the sugar bugs at mealtime, so really be aware of what you are putting in your mouth between meals.  Every time you eat, drink or chew something between meals, find something sugar free and you will minimize the number of cavities you get.

Gum disease is caused by bacteria which hide in plaque, a sticky white goo that collects at the gumline and in the pockets between your gums and teeth.  If you don’t remove the plaque, the first thing that happens is your gums get irritated.  They get red, puffy, tender, and they bleed easily.  We call this gingivitis.  The good news about gingivitis is that it is reversible.  As soon as you get better at removing the plaque, gingivitis begins to subside.  The next thing that happens if the plaque is not removed is that the bacteria starts to irritate the bone underneath the gums, the bone which holds your teeth in place.  Due to a complex interaction with your own body’s defense mechanisms, the bone starts to resorb, or melt away.  Unfortunately, the bone loss we call “gum disease” is irreversible.  It does not go away when you start doing a better job of removing plaque.  At that point, we can only try to keep it from getting worse so you don’t lose your teeth.  So, in order to prevent gum disease, floss and brush at the gumline everyday! You don’t really need to brush the sides and chewing surfaces much, since your lips, cheeks and tongue are wiping them all the time.  It’s all about getting the gumline and the pockets between your gums and teeth clean.

As with most things, life is not entirely fair.  Two different people with the same sugar eating habits will get different amounts of tooth decay.  And two different people with the same amount of plaque in their mouths will develop different amount of bone loss.  But do you really want to gamble that you are one of the lucky few who won’t get decay or gum disease?  Remember that these are the two most common diseases in the world!  And your teeth are at stake.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Dr. Steve

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