Why are my teeth starting to erode terribly?
Dental caries, the most common disorder affecting the teeth, is an infectious transmissible disease where acids produced by bacteria dissolve the teeth. Certain bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacilli are cariogenic, which means decay-causing. They initiate a sticky film, known as dental plaque, on the surface of the tooth. Bacteria in dental plaque use fermentable carbohydrates to form acids. Fermentable carbohydrates are sugars and other carbohydrates from food and drink that can be fermented by bacteria. The acids formed dissolve minerals such as calcium and phosphate from the tooth. This is called demineralisation.
But tooth decay is not inevitable. Good oral hygiene and the use of fluoride are now considered the main factors responsible for preventing tooth decay and promoting good oral health from the early childhood to the older age.The following advice is also important for keeping teeth caries-free.
- Brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. And if possible, clean between the teeth with dental floss or toothpicks once a day. Do not eat after cleaning teeth at bedtime as salivary flow decreases as we sleep.
- Visit the dentist about every 6 months for a check-up. And seek dentist's advice before using aesthetic products (e.g: teeth whiteners) that could have a deleterious effect on the teeth.
- Do not nibble food or sip drinks continuously. Allow time between eating occasions for saliva to neutralise acids and repair the teeth.
People at high risk from tooth wear and erosion should take special precautions, such as:
- decrease frequency and contact with acidic foods and drinks;
- avoid brushing teeth immediately after consuming acidic foods, drinks, citrus fruits and juices. This allows time for re-mineralization to occur. Fluoride mouthwashes and sugar-free chewing gum may be useful after taking acidic food or drinks as they encourage re- mineralization.
- Sugar-free chewing gum is "toothfriendly" as it helps increase saliva flow and clears food debris from the mouth. Good dental health is the responsibility of individuals, communities and governments although their relative importance varies. For example in some European countries water fluoridation is not yet publicly acceptable and so responsibility for preventing tooth decay lies largely with the individual. Dental professionals play an essential role in monitoring dental health and treating or preventing any problems. Access to good dental care, including regular check-ups is vital. For some people, especially those from lower socio-economic groups, access to dental professionals may be limited. These groups are important targets for dental health education programmes. Schools also play an important role in educating children on the importance of good oral hygiene and diet.