October has come and gone.  Recognized in the dental world as “Dental Hygiene Month”, October celebrates the amazing individuals whose sole mission is to help you KEEP YOUR TEETH.  How ironic that we applaud these dental cheerleaders during a month which traditionally represents costumes, pumpkin carving, haunted hay rides, spooky decorations and most importantly, CANDY. While people assume that candy to a dental professional is like garlic to a vampire, we feel the need to explain ourselves.  The truth is that we love candy just as much as the non-dental professional.  In fact, nothing makes us happier than finding a box of chocolates in the break room! We simply love and hate candy for being so good, but so bad. We find that our patients typically know of the correlation between sweets and tooth decay. It is the HOW that is often a mystery to them.

Bacteria + Sugar = Tooth decay

This above is the recipe for a cavity.  It begins with specific cavity causing bacteria found in dental plaque on and in between our teeth. This kind of bacteria likes sugar even more that we do!  It converts the sugar that sticks around in our mouths after we eat to acid. The acid then destroys and softens the outermost layer of our teeth, called the enamel. Once a cavity has worked its way through to the second layer, called the dentin, it is time to visit your dentist for a filling.  A larger and deeper cavity may require more invasive treatment such as root canal or crown. An unsalvageable tooth may need to be removed.

How to prevent tooth decay? Regular brushing, flossing, and the use of other cleansing aids will reduce dental plaque. Fluoride applied by your dental hygienist and smaller amounts of fluoride found in your toothpaste and mouth rinse can strengthen this softened tooth structure, potentially stopping decay in its tracks. Your saliva is your mouth’s initial line of defense when it comes to cavities. It helps to wash away plaque and food, neutralizing the acidic environment. Just remember, snacking on sugary foods and sipping on sugary drinks over long periods of time will prolong an acidic environment and thus, put your teeth at a greater risk for decay!

As counterproductive as it may seem, your dental hygienist strives to prevent you from needing to see the dentist for treatment. They can teach you all you need to know about brushing, flossing, fluoride and much more! We encourage you to take advantage of your next recare appointment and ask away!  🙂

Source: http://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/ADA_PatientSmart_Tooth_Decay.pdf?la=en