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Most scary thing about Halloween….Tooth Decay!

One of my favorite holidays is coming up, Halloween! Halloween can be scary… but the scare isn’t from my bad Dracula costume, it is from tooth decay. Tooth decay is the number one preventable disease in the world today, and can lead to pain, bad breath, root canals, infections, tooth loss or even death. What better time to talk about the scary tooth disease than Halloween?

How does tooth decay start?

To understand how cavities start, one must first understand the factors involved in tooth decay. Tooth decay involves many different but important players. In order for a traditional cavity to form, one must have teeth, saliva, bacteria, plaque and or calculus, and exposure to carbohydrates. The two factors we will focus on today are bacteria and carbohydrates.

Bacteria is found all over your body and in your mouth. In fact there are many different types of bacteria in your mouth, some good and some bad. The main bacteria strain associated with tooth decay is called Streptococcus mutans. These bacteria mix with the sugars found in our foods and create acid, which is what causes the cavity. The cavity will start as a white spot, which is confined to enamel. If caught early enough we can re-mineralize the area using fluoride.

Candy bars, chocolate bars, soda and sweet candy all include sugar as one of their main ingredients.  Next time you eat a candy bar, look at the top ten ingredients. Sugar is hidden in ingredient lists in many different forms. It’s called sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup… the list goes on. In fact there are more than 300 different names for sugar that are added to foods in our diets! To decrease the likelihood of getting tooth decay, one wants to avoid added sugar in their diet as much as possible. Now I’m not saying don’t eat sugar, but I am saying be knowledgeable about the foods and things you are eating and try and avoid added sugars.

How can I prevent tooth decay?

Prevention takes time, but if done right one can help prevent and even fight off tooth decay. Proper brushing and flossing is key to fighting off cavities. Brushing mechanically removes the plaque that is stuck to your teeth holding the bacteria. Flossing is important, as your toothbrush cannot properly reach in between your teeth. Brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste can also help re-mineralize the decay that is confined to your enamel.

How do you treat tooth decay? Can it be stopped?

Tooth decay is carefully treated by your Chicago Style Smiles team. If you think you may have tooth decay, the first step to removing it is to make an appointment. At the appointment we will check for tooth decay using X-rays, diagnodent and traditional methods. We will then take a picture of your teeth and if decay appears, show you the decay. Once diagnosed, based on the severity of the decay, we will make a follow up appointment to remove the tooth decay. The procedure involves a little bit of anesthetic, some decay removal using a dental hand piece, and then followed up with a tooth colored filling.

Tooth decay can be stopped if caught early enough. If tooth decay is isolated to the outer part of enamel, fluoride (found in toothpaste, water, professional rinses, etc.) can help re-mineralize it.

In summary

Halloween is a fun holiday, but remember to be smart and limit sugar intake from candy. If you are like me and find that hard to do, do your best to brush the sugar and plaque off as soon as possible to starve those bacteria of their favorite food – sugar. Remember: prevention is key to fighting tooth decay!

Keep Smiling Chicago

Kevin Dow

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