With all the advances in modern dentistry, your teeth should last as long as you live.
Granted, some accidents can damage a tooth beyond saving, or knock a tooth out. But even if a tooth is knocked out accidentally, the odds are good that it can be re-inserted into the socket if you get emergency dental care quickly.
Accidents don’t account for the vast majority of tooth loss in this country. Tooth decay is responsible. And tooth decay is entirely preventable for almost everyone.
The Basics of Keeping Your Natural Teeth
Preventing tooth decay begins with you. There are really good reasons why we tell our patients to brush their teeth for at least two minutes twice a day. Brushing the teeth removes plaques, a sticky film that forms around the teeth at the gumline. Plaque is unavoidable – it occurs naturally when the bacteria in our mouths interact with the sugars in our food.
Plaque is where tooth decay begins. That sticky film keeps bacteria in close contact with the enamel on our teeth. The bacteria begin to eat away at the enamel, forming cavities. Plaque also irritates the tissues of the gums, causing them to swell, darken, and even pull away from the teeth. This first stage of gum disease is called gingivitis.
Thorough brushing and flossing on a regular basis removes almost all plaque above the gumline before it has a chance to do any damage. And it has to be removed regularly, because it reforms within 24 hours of being removed.
Many people don’t brush their teeth properly, and that allows plaque to remain. Here are 5 tips for better toothbrushing.
- Use a small-headed, soft-bristle brush.
Hard bristles can wear away the enamel over time. Soft bristles remove the plaque with less chance of damaging the enamel. Small-headed toothbrushes are easier to maneuver into tight places in the mouth. You have to be able to reach those places to remove any plaque.
- Use gentle pressure and brush longer.
Plaque is pretty easy to remove, so not much pressure is needed. A lighter touch will clean away plaque without damaging the enamel. With that lighter touch, add some extra time to make sure that all tooth surfaces get brushed thoroughly. You should brush for two minutes, two to three times a day, and floss at least once.
- Be careful of whitening toothpastes.
All toothpastes containing tiny abrasives that “scrub” stains off the enamel. Whitening toothpastes tend to have harsher abrasives. Over time, those abrasive can wear away the enamel and leave your teeth vulnerable to decay. Consider using a standard fluoride toothpaste and get periodic professional whitening treatments, like the KöR whitening systems we offer in our practice Professional whitening safely produces better and longer-lasting results.
Regular Checkups and Cleanings
Even people who do everything they can to remove plaque from their teeth can miss a few spots. If plaque is left on the teeth long enough, it hardens into something called tartar, or dental calculus. Tartar is actually harder than the enamel on your teeth. No amount of brushing will remove tartar, and it’s the ideal “shelter” for bacteria to get to work on your tooth enamel.
That’s why regular dental checkups and cleanings are so important. We’ll detect the slightest traces of plaque remaining on your teeth and get rid of it. And if we find tartar, we’ll remove it carefully and completely through a process called scaling. Sometimes, tartar that’s been left undisturbed can make its way under the gumline to the vulnerable parts of the teeth that don’t have enamel. That’s removed by a process known as root planing which gets rid of tartar and pockets of bacteria under the gumline. The roots are also polished to make it harder for bacteria to get a foothold.
Your Teeth Should Last a Lifetime
You, Dr. Hurcomb, and the staff of Tulip Tree Dental are partners in helping you keep your natural teeth as long as you live. We know that some people are embarrassed by the state of their mouths and don’t want to see the dentist. We don’t judge and we don’t focus on what has happened. Our goal is to help you have a healthier mouth and stronger, more beautiful teeth.
Preventing tooth decay and gum disease is always better – and less expensive – than treating it. Call our South Bend, IN dental office at 574-208-5668 to schedule an appointment. Or, use our online scheduling application to send us a message. Let’s work together to help you keep your teeth for life.