It is easy to ignore, but a little bit of tooth decay or gum disease always leads to a little bit more. The outcome of these untreated problems inevitably becomes pain, emergency treatment, and tooth loss. So why does this happen?
It is an infection.
Millions of bacteria swarm our mouths, many of them harmless and even beneficial. But a few bad characters wreak havoc on the hard and soft tissues of the mouth in many people. Like all living creatures, they need an energy source. Sugars are their snack of choice, and they use simple carbohydrates from our diet to manufacture energy.
Like all living creatures making energy, they also produce debris. These acidic bi-products deposited on the teeth erode the hard enamel surfaces and form holes, known as cavities.
Some bacteria produce a toxic effect that results in bleeding gums and the destruction of the bone around the teeth. In fact, this is the leading reason people lose their teeth and end up with dentures. It is all part of a bacterial infection and the culminating effects on our body.
Most infections can be treated with antibiotics, but mouth bacteria require a different approach. Regular checkups help us identify new cavities, and periodic cleanings remove mineralized deposits that harbor millions of harmful bacteria. Fluoride varnishes harden teeth surfaces, and customized approaches can be designed for high-risk patients.
The complex interaction of infection and inflammation extends beyond the gums and mouth. In fact, research continues to uncover the many ways that problems in our mouths can reach into critical areas of our bodies. For example, mouth bacteria penetrate through bleeding gums and enter the bloodstream. Like a river, blood flow carries the bacteria to the small vessels of the heart and brain. Here, they can damage the intricate vessel lining, leading to blockage of the vessel. Heart attacks and strokes can result all because of bleeding gums.
The same process deposits mouth bacteria and their toxins into other areas of our bodies and appears to be related to arthritis, diabetes, and some forms of cancers. In the last few years, we have learned that a healthy mouth can affect our overall health in so many positive ways.
A few tips for maintaining a healthy mouth:
- Brush and floss twice a day: Consistent daily habits remove sticky, bacterial plaque that starts the cascading events that lead to decay, gum disease, and other health problems. If you do not like to floss, consider toothpicks, brushes, or the magic of a Waterpik.
- Brush for at least two minutes each time: It sounds like a long time, but it makes a difference. Consider an electric toothbrush with a built-in timer or setting a timer on your phone.
- Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly: Bacteria linger on your toothbrush, finding their way back into the mouth at the next use.
- Keep sugary drinks, starchy foods, and desserts to a minimum: Foods high in starch and sugar provide fuel to bacteria. Despite diligent brushing and flossing, sugary and starchy foods serve as catalysts for decay. Be moderate, and avoid snacking between meals.
- Drink sugary liquids through a straw: A straw helps keep sugar from bathing the teeth directly before swallowing.
- Drink water after eating a meal: Swishing with water helps clean larger deposits of food from your teeth. Plus, we all could use a little more hydration!
- Get cavities treated immediately: Cavities rarely hurt until they reach a critical stage. And do not forget: a little bit of tooth decay eventually becomes a lot more.
- See a dentist every six months: The risk of critical dental problems diminishes significantly if you are visiting us twice a year. Patients that fit preventive dentistry into their budget typically enjoy fewer dental expenditures over time than those who wait for emergencies to develop.