Common Causes of Tooth Decay and How a Dentist Can Help

No matter how diligent you are about daily brushing and flossing, tooth decay can still strike. Cavities and other dental problems seem to creep up on even the most dedicated tooth carers. But there are reasons why those pesky dental troubles appear. According to the CDC, 26% of adults in the U.S. have untreated tooth decay. Understanding the common causes of tooth decay empowers you to take action to defend your smile. Here are 14 to consider.

Your Enamel Is Naturally Prone to Erosion

Blame your genetics if your pearly whites seem to rapidly develop tiny holes and pits of decay. The thickness and mineral content of tooth enamel varies from person to person. Some unlucky people naturally have thinner or softer enamel that erodes more easily from acidic foods, beverages, and plaque bacteria. Make an appointment with your dentist at least twice yearly so they can monitor areas of your teeth prone to rapid decay.

You Don’t Produce Enough Saliva

Saliva neutralizes acid and provides calcium to strengthen and repair vulnerable enamel. However, hundreds of medications and medical conditions can reduce saliva flow, leaving your mouth parched instead of well-lubricated. The symptoms of chronic dry mouth are obvious — constant cottonmouth, difficulty swallowing food, bad breath, and increased cavities. If you suffer from inexplicable oral dryness, make an appointment with your dentist to uncover potential issues with your salivary glands. They can order tests to check if any prescriptions you take inhibit saliva secretion.

Your Reflux Issues Expose Your Teeth to Stomach Acid

When stomach acid enters your mouth frequently, enamel gradually dissolves. See your dentist immediately if you experience chronic heartburn, acid reflux, or sour burps. Your dentist will check for dental erosion and may refer you to a doctor to treat the underlying gastric problem. In the meantime, rinse with baking soda and water to neutralize lingering acid.

Your Gums Are Inflamed From Plaque Buildup

Plaque hiding under swollen gums releases acids and enzymes that diffuse through gum tissues to attack tooth roots and bone. Left untreated, severe gum disease crumbles bone support for teeth. Schedule professional cleanings with your dentist every six months. Also, brush and floss thoroughly to disrupt dental plaque before it hardens into tartar.

Your Autoimmune Disorder Alters Your Oral Environment

Hundreds of systemic diseases manifest in the mouth by changing pH, mineral content, and microbial balance. Symptoms are often subtle initially, like mild gum recession, cracked corners of the mouth, or sore spots on the tongue. Bring unusual oral changes to your dentist’s attention, especially if you have an autoimmune or chronic illness they should monitor. Saliva testing and additional cleanings may halt disease-fueled damage.

Your Medications Cause Dry Mouth

The U.S. Surgeon General reports that over 500 prescription and over-the-counter medications reduce saliva flow, especially antihistamines, diuretics, antidepressants, pain relievers, and muscle relaxants. Left untreated, dry mouth enables unrestrained bacterial growth and acid attacks. Your dentist can prescribe special toothpaste and mouthwash with extra minerals to moisturize your mouth and combat demineralization. Ask your pharmacist and dentist to review all medicines you take to pinpoint the culprit.

You Sleep With a CPAP Machine

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines fight obstructed breathing during sleep but also blast drying compressed air across teeth for hours. Saliva flow plummets at night anyway, so be sure to add moisture to the CPAP air stream using the machine’s humidifier setting. Your dentist may also recommend a special lip seal to decrease air leakage around your mouth. Custom-made oral devices that maintain jaw position can also eliminate the need for a CPAP for some patients.

Your Oral Appliance Doesn’t Fit Correctly

Dentures, retainers, mouth guards, and other dental appliances trap bacteria against teeth if loose or poorly molded, resulting in accelerated decay called appliance caries. See your dentist immediately if an oral device rubs or feels uncomfortable. Ill-fitting items require adjustment or replacement to minimize acidic microenvironments. Ask your dentist to demonstrate proper cleaning techniques for your appliances, too.

Your Medical Condition or Treatment Damages Tooth Surfaces

The radiation used to treat cancer in the head and neck areas devastates salivary gland function. Chemotherapy severely compromises the immune system’s ability to control oral bacteria. Diabetes, ADHD, and eating disorders all hamper saliva production and blood circulation, altering the mouth’s pH balance. Your dentist acts as an important member of your healthcare team managing the oral ramifications of complex medical issues. More frequent dental visits allow them to monitor and rapidly treat any enamel issues that develop with special remineralizing products.

You Take Medications That Cause Hyposalivation

Hundreds of common over-the-counter and prescription medications are categorized as anticholinergic, meaning they inhibit parasympathetic nerve signals. Side effects often include decreased saliva secretion leaving you susceptible to rampant dental decay. Your dentist can prescribe special toothpaste and mouthwash with extra minerals to moisturize your mouth and combat demineralization if you must take medications that cause chronic dry mouth. Ask your pharmacist and dentist to review all medicines you take.

Your Teeth Aligners Don’t Fit Perfectly

Popular clear teeth aligners trap plaque and food debris against tooth surfaces much like a poorly fitting retainer. Carefully clean around and under aligners after each meal. See your dentist immediately if aligners cause visible gum inflammation, loose teeth, or annoying rubbing. Ill-fitting devices require replacement shields to minimize damage during the straightening process. Don’t attempt aligner adjustments yourself using direct heat or pliers which could fracture the plastic.

You Have a Habit of Crunching Ice or Hard Candy

Temporomandibular joint disorders cause almost constant teeth grinding and clenching, which chips and cracks the enamel surface. Stress and anxiety aggravated the situation. Hard candies and ice provide another venue to clamp down forcefully. See your dentist about options to stop the damaging habit and protect your teeth, such as biofeedback devices or bite splints. For stress relief, try sipping cool water through a straw instead of crunching cubes. Your dentist can also refer you to anti-anxiety counseling or medication if necessary.

You Use Your Teeth As Tools

It may seem harmless to tear open packaging or use your teeth to hold items. However, these habits eventually fracture enamel or alter your occlusion, causing jaw pain or uneven tooth wear over time. Dentists cringe at seeing patients use their teeth as built-in wire cutters and vice grips. Protect your priceless natural teeth and invest in the correct tool for tough jobs around your home and workshop. Ask your dentist about sports mouthguards if your competitive recreations require clenched jaws.

You Skip Regular Dental Checkups and Cleanings

Despite your best oral hygiene efforts at home, only a dentist can fully remove tenacious calculus deposits below gumlines and in other difficult-to-reach spots. Tartar traps plaque flush against teeth to dangerously demineralize enamel. The minimum recommendations are professional cleanings every six months. See your dentist sooner if you experience gum tenderness, increased staining, or sudden temperature sensitivity signaling early decay. Dental visits also include thorough decay spotting plus individualized advice to improve your daily regimen.

Dental decay is common, but it doesn’t have to happen to you. Contact your dentist’s office today to schedule your routine cleaning and checkup. Ask questions to assess your personal risks for dental erosion, appliance caries, dry mouth issues, gum disease, and other preventable culprits behind tooth decay and damage. With a few minor habit adjustments and your dentist’s specialized treatments, you can confidently grin brightly for decades to come. Call Bright Side Dental today to schedule an appointment with a dentist if you have tooth decay.

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