The Truth About Tooth Decay: Facts and Tips

facts about teeth oral health

Tooth decay can affect anyone. It’s one of the most common health problems across the globe and can be caused by a variety of factors, including demineralization, sugary snacks and drinks, and a lack of oral hygiene. Unfortunately, you don’t always feel when a cavity or tooth decay begins and if left untreated, they continue to get worse and get deeper in the layers of your skin. Eventually, this can result in severe toothache, infection or tooth loss. However, what may surprise you the most is that not only is tooth decay preventable, but it can also be reversed or reduced to prevent your symptoms from worsening. In this article, we cover everything there is to know about tooth decay, including the effective remedies you can start using today to start improving your oral hygiene and start tackling tooth decay.

What Causes Tooth Decay?

From a technical standpoint, tooth decay occurs when acid is produced from plaque, a sticky substance that is made from leftover food particles and saliva in your mouth. If you don’t clean your teeth, plaque begins to form and build up on your teeth, which is when the problems begin, as plaque contains bacteria that is linked to causing tooth decay, gym abscesses and gum disease. There are also many additional factors that can promote tooth decay, such as improper or inadequate oral hygiene, bacteria, consuming acidic food or drinks, and consuming too much sugar. In fact, sugar is quite detrimental to your tooth health as it feeds the cavity-causing bacteria called Streptococcus Mutans. They also produce acid, which decreases your mouth’s condition over time, eventually leading to demineralization, which is also another driving factor.

What is Demineralization?

Demineralization is when your teeth start to lose minerals. It occurs when the acid from the plague wears off the enamel on your teeth, eventually causing tooth decay. You can’t necessarily feel demineralization, until the cavities start to appear. What’s worse is that many people don’t even know demineralization exists, so they don’t know what to look for to stop it in its tracks. As a result, the bacteria begin to eat its way into the roots of your teeth, which can lead to infection or the need to undergo a painful treatment known as a root canal treatment.

Who’s At Higher Risk for Tooth Decay?

Some people are genetically more prone to cavities and tooth decay as well. This is because their saliva is more acidic than what’s considered ‘normal’. As a result, demineralization is more likely to occur, causing more cavities to form faster in comparison to individuals who have saliva with a balanced pH level.

Pregnant women are also believed to be more at risk of developing cavities, as the hormone changes cause the saliva to become more acidic and also due to dietary changes. People suffering from GERD or acid reflux are also more susceptible to tooth decay from demineralization, as the stomach acid that travels up to their throat and mouth mixes with the saliva, causing it to be more acidic. And if you have a dry mouth, due to a health condition, medication or lifestyle habit (alcohol and tobacco use), you’ll also be at higher risk of experiencing demineralization. This is because there isn’t enough saliva to wash away bacteria from your teeth or to lubricate your teeth and remineralize (repair) them.

Facts About Reversing Tooth Decay

Many people don’t know this, but you can reverse tooth decay through a process called remineralization. It is the opposite of demineralization and acts as natural tooth repair where the body takes calcium and phosphate minerals from your salvia and puts them in your enamel to enhance the protective outer layer of your teeth. It helps replace the lost minerals from your teeth (demineralization) to keep your teeth strong and prevent tooth decay. The minerals work together to form the building block of your teeth (a compound called hydroxyapatite) to provide additional strength.

Now, activating this process is as simple as ensuring your mouth has the following conditions:

  • Saliva is at neutral-alkaline level – pH 7.5 and above
  • Sufficient levels of calcium and phosphorus are in your saliva

Natural Ways to Reduce or Reverse Tooth Decay 

First things first, prevention is key. If you can prevent tooth decay in the first place by practising good oral and dental hygiene, all the better. However, since demineralization occurs naturally as you eat and drink throughout the day, it can never hurt to add in some additional remedies to help prevent cavities or tooth decay.

Here are popular (and secret) natural remedies that can effectively increase dental health:

Natural herbs and spices: Various studies have confirmed the effectiveness of using certain herbs and spices to treat cavities and gum disease. The four best ones:

  • Neem
  • Sage
  • Licorice Root
  • Cinnamon

Neem is a plant that has been used for centuries in folk and Ayurvedic medicine. It can effectively prevent cavities, gum disease, tooth decay and oral infections, and is a powerful aid for soothing and preventing bleeding and sore gums. It’s commonly chewed on in India due to its dental health benefits, but it can be used in supplement form as well.

Sage is a herb that can effectively relieve tooth and gum-related problems, such as toothaches and sore gums. It contains many antimicrobial effects that work to neutralize the microbes known to promote plaque growth. Studies have also shown that it can effectively kill the Streptococcus bacteria that cause dental cavities.

Licorice Root is one of the world’s oldest herbal remedies. Studies have shown that it contains compounds that prevent and treat gum diseases. It also has strong anti-cavity properties, as well as, anti-microbial and anti-inflammation properties, all of which help tackle gum diseases and teeth cavities.

Cinnamon is a key ingredient for maintaining oral health. It can be used to effectively prevent cavities, fight fungal and bacterial infections and treat gum disease, and to relieve pain associated with dental problems.

Sharpen Up On Your Brushing Skills

Despite brushing your teeth for as long as you can remember, many people still do it improperly. The following steps will help you increase the effectiveness of your daily brushing:

  • Have your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to your teeth and direct the bristles to the area where your teeth and gums meet.
  • Focus on cleaning every surface of every tooth, including the area that faces your cheeks and tongue.
  • Don’t rush. Brushing your teeth should take at least two to three minutes.
  • Periodically switch up your usual brushing pattern to ensure you aren’t missing the same spots all of the time.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste after eating or drinking.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day.
  • Don’t forget to floss.
  • Finish with a rinse of fluoride mouthwash.
  • Don’t forget to change your toothbrush every three to four months, and opt for one with soft, rounded bristles.
  • Consider using a special antibacterial mouth rinse to cut down on harmful bacteria in your mouth if you’re considered high risk for cavities.

Chew On Some Xylitol-based Gum

Studies conclude that Xylitol can inhibit cavity-causing bacteria, while also stimulating saliva production to neutralize the acidity in your mouth and promote oral hygiene. They can also benefit your gut flora and prevent or cure ear infections. But back to your teeth,

Xylitol can help build an alkaline environment in your mouth to begin the remineralization process. However, you also need calcium and phosphate minerals to repair your teeth, as mentioned previously. Otherwise, these two ingredients aren’t able to provide you with the benefits you’re looking for. You can use your diet to get the calcium and phosphate minerals into your system needed for remineralization to happen. Many experts suggest eating cheese to improve your dental health, as its high calcium and phosphate content, and can neutralize acidity in your mouth quickly. There are also many other foods you can use, including other milk and dairy, dark leafy greens and fish bones commonly found in canned sardines and salmon.  You can find out more at Health Focus Magazine’s Newsletter on Dental Facts.

Don’t Skip Your Dentist Visit

No one likes going to the dentist, but getting professional teeth cleaning and regular oral exams is crucial for maintaining optimal oral health and hygiene. It will also help prevent problems, as any potential issues can be spotted quickly and treated promptly. 

Avoid Frequent Snacking

Every time you eat or drink something sweet or made from refined carbohydrates, it feeds the cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth creating acid that can slowly deteriorate the enamel on your teeth and subject your teeth to harm. So, try to limit frequent snacking and drinking. Creating an eating plan and schedule can help you achieve this.

Enjoy More Tooth-Friendly Foods

If you are going to snack or have a drink, try to make sure you’re indulging in tooth-friendly foods that aren’t likely to get stuck in the pits of your teeth for long periods. Fresh fruits and vegetables can also help increase saliva, which as we discussed previously, can help maintain a healthy environment for your teeth.

Take good care of your teeth today and you’ll be thankful for it later, as untreated cavities and tooth decay can cause pain and infections that can eventually lead to problems within your everyday life when speaking, eating, or playing. Use these tips to keep your teeth healthy and to reduce tooth decay one day at a time.

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