Tooth decay is one of the most prominent and problematic concerns in American dentistry. Tooth decay is where all of the major problems start. Cavities, tartar, plaque build-up, and others are all problems that come from neglecting your oral health.
That’s why brushing and flossing are so important because if bacteria are given a chance to grow in your mouth, the more they will eat away at the enamel of your teeth. And the less enamel your teeth have, the more costly your dental care will be. And unfortunately, the number of pediatric tooth decay cases seems to be on the rise.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, tooth decay in children ages 2-5 was only seen in 18 percent of patients from 1988-1994 but then grew to 24 percent from 1994-2004. From there, the CDC found that in 2007, this same age range was experiencing tooth decay at a rate of 28 percent with no signs of stopping. At this point, many pediatric dentists began wondering. They wanted to know why this was happening and what they could do to stop it.
Why Is Childhood Tooth Decay on The Rise?
One of the most popularly-theorized causes of tooth decay in young children is the popularity of sugary drinks and foods. These are marketed to American youth and many parents have no issues buying them. These sugary foods cause an increase in plaque which on the teeth. When left untreated, it quickly devolves into tooth decay and starts rotting teeth from the inside out.
Why are children eating such high-sugar foods? Well, a large part of it seems to be tied to lifestyle and socioeconomic class. For people who don’t have the time or money to create three home-cooked meals every day, fast food and fun cereals are convenient solutions. Unfortunately, these solutions have a high sugar concentration.
The Worst Foods For Tooth Decay
Carbonated sugary drinks are the number one most famous example of foods that destroy your teeth if you consume them too often.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, starchy foods are worse for your teeth than candy because they stick to your teeth longer than candy does. Examples of starchy foods that are bad for your teeth include:
- White Bread
- Potato Chips
If you still love foods like these, the best thing you can do to reduce how bad they are is to drink plenty of water, brush and floss after eating them, and even eat carrots afterward.
Never, and we mean NEVER, chew ice if you want to keep your teeth in good condition. Chewing ice, regardless of the type, causes microfractures in your teeth, put undue stress on the enamel, and can even lead to damaging or breaking your tooth fillings.
Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits have the highest naturally occurring concentration of citric acid in natural foods. Citric acid also breaks down the enamel and makes it easier for cavities to develop.
Due to its high sugar content and its inherent sticky nature, dried fruits are also bad for you and your child’s teeth. Pieces of dried fruit can easily stick to the chewing surfaces of your teeth and it can take a long time for them to come off naturally. But if you’re proactive and brush your teeth regularly after you eat sticky foods, or even just drink plenty of water, you can mitigate some of these risks.
Sports drinks are full of sugar and salt. Thankfully since they’re only drinks, they won’t linger on your teeth as long as starchy foods. All the same, you or your child should still make sure to drink plenty of water and take care of your teeth regularly so cavities don’t have a chance to develop in your mouth.
Can Tooth Decay Be Reversed?
There is no natural or feasible way to reverse the tooth decay process after it’s started. Now, to be clear, reversing tooth decay would mean regrowing your tooth enamel after decay has started eating it away. There is no way to do that. But there are ways to fight tooth decay and prevent it from getting worse.
How To Fight Tooth Decay
- Brush and floss your teeth daily.
- Drink plenty of water, which will help wash away residue on your teeth
- Eat foods that are good for your teeth (apples, carrots, and other raw vegetables)
- Avoid dry mouth by chewing gum with xylitol
- Get your teeth cleaned and inspected regularly
Tooth Decay Stages
In between visits to the dentist, how can you tell if you have tooth decay going on? Learning more about the stages of tooth decay can help you recognize when your teeth need help.
Stage 1: White Spots Appearing On Your Teeth
Teeth getting whiter should be a good sign right? Well, if you notice little white spots on your teeth, it could actually be a bad sign. When tiny white spots start forming just under the enamel of your teeth, it’s a sign that the surface of your teeth is wearing thin because of sugars and acids and bacteria wearing away at your teeth.
If you’re not a dental professional, it can be hard to tell for sure, but if you do notice something like this, then see if you can see your dentist sooner to address any concerns.
Stage 2: Brown Spots
After your enamel starts to demineralize, the white spots on your teeth will begin to turn brown as the enamel continues to decay. Tooth decay treatment at this stage involves getting the decayed materials removed and then filled with resin, silver fillings, amalgam fillings, or composite fillings.
Step 3: Extreme Tooth Sensitivity to Temperature
The next stage occurs when the inner material of your teeth, the dentin, starts to decay. At this stage, your teeth will become highly sensitive when you eat or drink anything hot or cold.
Once dentin decay starts, it becomes very fast. But, if you catch it early enough it can be fixed with a regular dental filling. However, the fix for extreme dentin decay is for your dentist to remove the decayed material and replace it with a dental crown.
Stage 4: Tooth Pressure and Swelling
After your dentin decays, the decay will spread to the inner pulp of the tooth. Swelling and pressure inside the tooth will occur as the pulp gets damaged. Other symptoms of this stage include:
- Changes in tooth color from white, to grey, to black
- Bad breath and bad smells coming from the tooth
- Swelling around the decaying tooth
- A bad taste in your mouth
When your tooth decay gets to this stage, you will need to have a root canal. Like the process for treating a cavity, your dentist will remove the damaged tooth tissue, fill it with a cavity and then place a crown over it to protect what’s left of the tooth.
Stage 5: Infection and Necrosis
The final stage of tooth decay involves tissue death of the pulp, and then infection of the tooth that leads to an abscess. At this stage, you’ll experience extreme pain in your mouth, face, gums, and jaw.
The abscess needs to be treated as soon as possible to prevent the infection from spreading to your jaw and other parts of your body. Typically, a dentist will remove the tooth as part of treatment for this stage of tooth decay.
Depending on how far the infection has spread, you may be prescribed antibiotics to kill the remaining bacteria and prevent further infection.
Other Tips to Fight Tooth Decay
- Use a fluoride toothpaste
- Avoid snacks in between meals
- Promote healthy snacking
- Establish good brushing and flossing habits
- Ask your dentist about dental sealants for children
Prevent Tooth Decay By Visiting Snodgrass-King Family Dentistry in Middle Tennessee
If you don’t have a regular dental appointment set up for you or your children, then now’s the time to start. Send us an email or give us a call to schedule your or your child’s appointment.