Dentistry and modern science have not been able to find a cure or prevent tooth decay, also known as dental caries. In the United States, tooth decay is the most common disease in man after the common cold.
Dental Tooth decay (caries) is a bacterial disease. Everyone has bacteria in their mouth which cause caries. These bacteria form a plaque on teeth (sticky bacterial biofilm); a high sugar and starch diet is turned into acid by these bacteria, which causes decalcification and cavities in the tooth, destroys the tooth enamel and allows the decay to occur.
Everyone has bacteria which forms plaque. If not removed daily, it leads to cavities, pain and even loss of teeth.
The five most important ways to prevent tooth decay:
1. Be exposed to fluoridated water or fluoride tablets during the time of tooth development (pre-natal to 12 years old). Continue throughout life using fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride strengthens teeth and aids in limiting the acid effect on tooth enamel.
2. Proper nutrition and eating habits. The high frequency ingestion of empty calories and sugar (starchy foods, candies, sodas and sports drinks, etc.) lead to increased occurrences of tooth decay. Starches are broken down by mouth enzymes to sugars, sugars broken down into acids. These acids then break down the tooth.
3. To prevent tooth destruction you must remove the plaque. This is done by daily brushing and flossing. Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Floss or use other between the teeth cleaning tools once a day.
4. Regular dental examinations and professional cleanings remove plaque and calculus (mineralized plaque), administer fluoride treatments and allow for caries to be treated early with fillings.
5. Dental sealants (plastic protective coverings) can be applied to the biting surfaces of the back teeth when they erupt between 6-14 years of age; these seal the grooves where almost 90% of decay occurs, preventing decay from occurring when in place.
Dental caries is not completely preventable. No vaccine is available to prevent this common disease. Without a cure, utilize the modern dental technologies for maximum prevention and limit destruction with early treatment.