At some point, most people will experience a cavity. Nearly 70% of people between 35-44 years of age have lost a tooth, and 25% of folks 76 and older have no natural teeth left. Gum disease (from gingivitis to periodontitis) afflicts about 80% of the US population.
What causes cavities, tooth loss, and gum disease? Can you take preventive measures now to reduce your risk of becoming part of statistics like these? Yes!
Bacteria: Your mouth has about 600 different types of bacteria. Plaque has 10,000,000,000 bacteria per milligram. These bacteria lead to many problems, in the mouth and body. They contribute to gum disease, cavities, halitosis (bad breath), and other problems. To have bacteria in your mouth is natural – but to maintain good oral health, you must control the bacteria. Brushing, flossing, using a tongue scraper, and rinsing with anti-bacterial mouthwash can help. Limiting snacks, particularly sugars and starches, also helps. In addition, stay hydrated. Drink water (not soda, tea, or coffee) throughout the day. It will reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth and contribute to good overall health.
Acids: When starches and sugars mix with saliva, they create an acid that wears away tooth enamel. After eating or drinking, tooth enamel actually softens. Saliva works to re-harden enamel, but this can take 30 minutes to two hours. For this reason, brushing your teeth right after eating is not a good practice. Furthermore, acidic drinks and foods – like citrus- and tomato-based foods – also wear on teeth. To reduce your risk for dental damage, limit acidic foods and drinks in your diet. Rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking anything, and avoid sugary or starchy snacks. Also, wait 2 hours after a meal before brushing your teeth.
Trauma: From a tumble on the basketball court to biting down on a peppercorn, teeth often incur injury from trauma. While you can’t stop accidents in your life, you can take a few steps to reduce the risk of dental injuries. During sports and workouts, wear a mouthguard. You can purchase a boil-and-bite mouthguard at a sporting goods store or ask Dr. DeFinnis to create a comfortable, custom-fitted mouthguard at your next visit to Wynnewood Dental Arts. Also, be cognizant of what you put in your mouth. Chewing on ice, seeds, and nuts could result in a tooth chip or fracture. Be careful to inspect your food for hard particles before you chomp down.
TMJ Disorder & Bruxism: Some research suggests that approximately 10 million Americans suffer with TMJ disorder, a misalignment of the jaw joints. Bruxism, the act of clenching and grinding teeth, affects about 10% of adults and is even more prevalent in kids. TMJ disorder can lead to bruxism, and vice versa. The bottom line is, clenching and grinding teeth can result in chips, fractures, and tooth wear. This alters how upper and lower teeth fit together, which causes even more problems – stressing the muscles and nerves that surround the jaw joints. If you clench and grind your teeth, suffer with chronic headaches, earaches, migraines, face or jaw pain, or if your jaw joints click and pop, you may have TMJ or bruxism. Dr. DeFinnis can evaluate your occlusion and tooth wear to determine whether a custom oral appliance may help. A mouth guard could keep you from clenching and grinding while re-establishing proper occlusion. Rebuilding worn-down back teeth is also important to restore proper occlusion and oral health.