Minimizing This Oral Threat

Doyle Nick
Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash

In the previous issue we talked about dentistry and oral health. We are going to continue discussing this important subject here and in the next issue, as well.

Oral health is vital to overall well-being. A person who has a nice smile and comfortable mouth is best equipped to communicate, be confident, and function in society. That person is also more likely to be well nourished, enjoy life, enjoy eating, and avoid several serious systemic diseases.

The most common threats to oral health come from two mouth diseases: cavities and periodontal disease. Almost everyone has one or the other, or both, at some level of severity during the normal life span. Fortunately, avoiding these diseases is not terribly complicated, and with proper care, even more serious forms can be avoided or successfully treated.

Today we will talk about dental caries (cavities): how this disease occurs and best practices to avoid it. Cavities occur when acids from bacteria or other sources dissolve tooth enamel faster than minerals in saliva can replace it. Dentists have traditionally emphasized oral hygiene, but caries are caused by several factors. Some of these are under our control; some are not. Genetics is a factor over which we obviously have no control. Factors we can influence are: the ecology of the oral bacterial community, the acidity and mineral level in our saliva, our diet and the amount of time food is left on teeth during the day. 

Here are some successful strategies for avoiding or minimizing dental cavities:

Live healthfully in all matters. A healthy body and mind contribute to oral health. A healthy mouth is very important to overall health.

Brush and floss meticulously twice each day, preferably after breakfast and before bed. For maximum effectiveness, be sure you are flossing correctly. Ask your dentist or hygienist for tips.

Eat healthy foods. Whole, natural foods are best. Minimize highly processed foods, especially those with high sugar content, and sticky/gooey foods.

It’s best to avoid or minimize snacks so there are at least two two-hour times during the day that nothing with calories is eaten. If snacks are necessary, fresh, crisp foods such as apples or carrots and those high in proteins (sunflower seeds, nuts, beans, or cheese) are best.

Plan systematic dental care. Some people should see the dentist every few months. For others, every two years is fine. A dentist can evaluate your mouth for caries risk and let you know what schedule is best for you. The doctor may take X-rays, which are important to detect tiny cavities just starting. Many of these can be reversed. An untreated small cavity can become a painful, inconvenient, and expensive problem, so why not care for it early? Schedule regular cleanings by a dentist or hygienist, and possibly incorporate the use of fluoride into your regimen. This not only will make caries less likely, but also will help protect you from periodontal disease. But that is a subject for next time.

Doyle Nick