Since you first learned how to brush your teeth, you have been told about the importance of maintaining a daily dental hygiene routine. One that includes brushing twice a day, flossing, and using a mouth rinse. You also know about the importance of visiting your dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and an exam. But, even though you do all of this, did you know that you can still have tooth decay? There are numerous personal habits that may encourage tooth decay.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
Plaque is the sticky bacterial substance that collects around your teeth and gum lines when you eat or drink sugars and carbohydrates. When plaque accumulates, it produces a form of acid that can eat away at tooth enamel. This can cause tiny holes that result in tooth decay. Plaque is also a major factor in gum tissue infections. Tooth decay is a dental problem that does not repair itself and will need to be cared for by a dentist.
Let’s look at some of the ways that your personal habits might be contributing to tooth decay.
This is the term used for grinding one’s teeth. Whether awake or sleeping, millions of people grind their teeth when stressed or nervous. This habit can cause cracking or chipped teeth, loosened teeth, and tooth loss. If left untreated, bruxism can lead to other health problems such as a sore or tender jaw, gum disease, neck pain and earaches.
Diets that are high in foods containing carbs and sugar provide an ideal environment for the growth of plaque. The longer that plaque remains on the teeth, the more the teeth are exposed to possible tooth decay. The bacterial acid that is produced by carbs and sugar remain active for 15 to 20 minutes after entering the mouth. Flossing after meals and drinking fluoridated water while eating helps to reduce the amount of bacteria exposure on the teeth. Fluoride helps strengthen the teeth and prevent tooth decay.
Any liquid, including sports drinks, fruit juices, sodas, coffee, tea, wine, and alcohol, which contains sugars or acids can expose tooth enamel to erosion that can result in tooth decay. Rinsing the mouth with fluoridated water after drinking other beverages can reduce bacteria and stains remaining on the teeth. Using a straw may also reduce bacteria that can remain on the teeth.
Participating in contact sports, including the martial arts, without wearing a protective mouth guard, leaves a person open to damaged, broken, or knocked out teeth. Annually, more than 5 million teeth are lost because of sports related damage. At the same time, the American Dental Association estimates that every year, the use of mouth guards while playing sports have saved several hundred thousand teeth from being damaged.
In addition to the cancer risks associated with the use of tobacco products, including chewing tobacco, these products increase the risk of plaque and tartar accumulation on the teeth that leads to tooth decay and tooth loss. The most effective defense against teeth, gum, and oral problems with tobacco is to stop using these harmful products.