How to Prevent Tooth Decay

Photo of a decaying tooth
Photo by Ozkan Guner on Unsplash

Tooth decay or cavity formation is one of the most prevalent oral health issues in the US and the world. It is an ongoing process that can lead to serious consequences in oral health and in particular, your overall health.

According to a report furnished by the National Center for Health Statistics of the CDC, around 90% of US adults are suffering from the problem of dental caries (a scientific term for tooth decay).

Another survey indicates that 42% of children (between 2 to 11 years) in the US are facing the problem of tooth decay and cavities. More alarming is the issue that more than half of them haven’t undergone any treatment. The American Dental Health Association has termed tooth decay as the most chronic health problem among the child population in the US.

Consequences of Tooth Decay

Many people treat tooth decay as a natural course of growing old, however, this is not the case. Tooth decay possesses some serious ramifications if not treated appropriately:

  • Gingivitis or in more severe cases, periodontal (gum) disease will develop
  • Tooth decay with severe cavity formations and cuts causes intense chronic pain
  • Decayed teeth infested with bacteria produce odor in the mouth resulting in bad breath.
  • Tooth decay of a higher degree can result in inflammation and the formation of abscessed teeth due to the infection of periapical tissues.
  • At the end stage of tooth decay, dentists advise extraction of the affected tooth, leaving the space empty which can cause misalignment of the teeth.

On the whole, tooth decay significantly imposes major inconveniences and can severely affect the well-being of an otherwise healthy individual.

Dynamics of Tooth Decay

Unlike other diseases caused by specific viruses and groups of infectious bacteria, tooth decay is prompted by the presence of acidogenic bacteria in the mouth. In normal circumstances, these bacteria get neutralized by saliva. However, in a poor upkeep routine of oral and dental health, the remnants of carbohydrates, especially glucose interact with acidogenic bacteria.  

The bacteria break down glucose and sugar by creating acid as a by-product of their activity. This bacterial action transforms the oral environment into an acidic one which is harmful to teeth enamel, the peripheral covering made of phosphate and calcium.

Once enamel gets eroded due to the higher levels of acidity, dentin starts to get exposed to acidic reactions. The structure of dentin is softer than enamel, so the tooth decay process gets expedited.


Apart from poor dental hygiene, several other factors can also set off tooth decay.

Deep Teeth Pits and Fissures

Some individuals inherently have deep crevices and pits in their teeth. This type of tooth structure is ideal for the buildup of plaque and acidogenic bacteria. To prevent tooth decay in people with deep tooth fissures, dentists use dental sealants.

Inviting Sugar into Your Body

Spoon spilling sugar onto a cup
Photo by Mathilde Langevin on Unsplash

Sugar, as good as it tastes is a prime culprit for tooth decay. And it is not only candy or soda. As previously discussed, carbohydrates with rich sugar content are one of the main sources of making the oral environment acidic.

With a greater proportion of sugary foods in your diet, you are not only inviting obesity, but you are also making your oral cavity more susceptible to tooth decay. Drinks acidic in nature such as carbonated sodas and fruit juices also assist the process of tooth decay (See image above). Therefore, it is necessary to have moderation in your daily diet with all such dietary items, even if you are taking good care of your oral health.

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Dry mouth is a condition in which salivary glands in the mouth fail to produce enough amount of saliva required to maintain the acid-base balance of the oral cavity. A dry mouth is more vulnerable to acidogenic bacterial reactions. 

A well-practiced physician and dentist can help patients with the problem of dry mouth issues. Non-prescription remedies for dry mouth include limiting caffeine intake and smoking.  Sugar-free gum and candies are also used for sufficient saliva production.

Tooth Grinding (Bruxism)

Other than the detrimental bacterial actions, tooth grinding can also bring about the decaying process. In bruxism, intense clenching of teeth occurs during sleep due to stress and anxiety. The resultant abrasion also destroys the enamel and exposes the inner dentin to bacterial reactions. Therefore, treatment of bruxism is necessary for the prevention of tooth decay.

Tooth Decay Prevention

How to maintain good teeth and gums is essentially common knowledge, but we’ll discuss them briefly here:

Brush Daily

Woman brushing her teeth
Preventing gum disease starts with good dental health

Like the commercial, be sure to brush after every meal. If that is not feasible, brush in the morning and at night. Soft brushes are better than hard brushes and you should brush your teeth for at least two minutes each time. Dentists do recommend using electric toothbrushes over manual ones.

Floss Daily

Brushing isn’t the only preventive technique to help prevent the buildup of plaque. Flossing is just as important. Without daily flossing, bacteria will accumulate in the spaces between the teeth. These are areas where brushing is not that helpful. By flossing in the spaces between the teeth, you help keep the bacteria out and consequently, the plaque and tartar will not build up.

Visit Your Dentist

Needless to say, the above prevention methods are only part of the action you can take towards good oral health. Visit your dentist for a routine examination and a cleaning twice a year.

It is quite apparent that a good oral health regimen is the key to the prevention of tooth decay. 


Teeth will begin to decay when sugar combines with bacteria to form acid. This acid, also known as plaque will gradually eat away at the enamel of the tooth and if not corrected, will work its way down towards the second layer, called dentin. When this happens, cavities are formed.  If you haven’t been to the dentist, now is the time to go before your cavities reach the next layer, called the pulp and the possibility of root canal work may be necessary.

Learn more in this video on the hows, whys, and protection against tooth decay.

What Causes Dry Mouth and How to Deal With It?

Human Teeth
Teeth and the oral cavity (

Every wake up and find your mouth totally dry? Well, if so, it is something that should be corrected as it can lead to issues and not just in your mouth. Let’s explore why.

Saliva, the lubricant produced in the mouth, is like a health tonic for our teeth and gums. It is estimated that our mouth produces around 48 – 60 ounces of saliva every day. Here is why this lubricating liquid is absolutely essential. 

  • It prevents infection in the oral cavity by controlling the growth of microorganisms in the mouth. 
  • Saliva facilitates the transportation of food from the oral cavity to the digestive tract. 
  • It possesses antibacterial properties that protect teeth from cavities. 
  • It is also rich in calcium and phosphorus which ensures healthy teeth. 
  • Saliva also prevents infection by controlling bacteria and fungi in the mouth. 
  • Acts as a lubricant that prevents food particles from sticking to teeth and gums. 
  • Neutralizes the acid from the stomach and helps keep gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) in control. GERD is one of the leading causes of heartburn.  

In all, we need saliva to keep our oral cavity clean and healthy. But there are instances when the saliva production in the mouth decreases resulting in dry mouth. The implications may range from simple discomfort to something which can have a significant impact on your oral and digestive health. Also, it can greatly affect your appetite and a general liking for food. Medically, this condition is known as xerostomia

There are numerous reasons which can lead to dry mouth and fortunately, many treatments can help against this condition. Below you will find out about the potential causes of this condition and several tips for managing it. 

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Picture of dry toung
Xerostomia (CC wikimedia)

The condition occurs when the salivary glands present in the mouth do not produce sufficient saliva to keep the mouth clean. Some of the reasons which can affect the functioning of salivary glands include: 


Dry mouth is a side effect of several medications and over-the-counter drugs. Medicines used to treat depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure are one of the potential sources. Also, medicines used to treat congestions, muscle spasm and general pain can lead to reduced production of saliva. 


As people age, it is common for them to experience this dryness. The condition is more common in women compared to men. Inadequate nutrition, poor oral health, use of medications and changes in the ability of the body to process medications all lead to dry mouth.    

Cancer Treatment 

Drugs used to treat cancer can have a significant impact on the production of saliva. Chemotherapy and radiation used to treat cancer can temporarily or permanently damage the production of saliva in the mouth. The implications of cancer treatment on saliva production depend upon the affected area and dose of medicine. 

Health Conditions 

Dry mouth can be a result of various health conditions such as diabetes, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. Infections such as thrush in the mouth can also decrease the production of saliva. Autoimmune disorders such as Sjorgen’s syndrome are also considered to be one of the causes of dry mouth. Problems associated with the nasal cavity such as breathing with the mouth open, sinusitis and snoring can contribute towards this condition as well. An injury or damage to the nerves in the head and neck region can also result in a temporary or permanent reduction in saliva production. 

Use of Alcohol, Tobacco and Recreational Drugs 

In the long run, use of alcohol and tobacco can reduce the production of saliva in the oral cavity. Recreational drugs such as methamphetamine or marijuana can lead to severe dryness. It also damages the teeth and gums. 

Effective Tips for Treating Dry Mouth 

On a positive note, this condition can be treated. However, the treatment depends upon the cause of the condition and its severity. Below, you will find 10 tips that are effective against dealing with dry mouth regardless of the cause. 

Chewing Gum 

Chewing stimulates the production of saliva; however, it is only effective if the salivary glands are still working even to some extent. In case the salivary glands are permanently damaged, chewing gum won’t help. Here it is important to use sugar-free gum only. Sugar-free gum protects the oral cavity against cavities. This is even more important in the case of dry mouth because it is more prone to developing cavities. 

Add Fiber 

Fibrous foods including apples, carrots and celery help promote your oral health. They help fight off the harmful bacteria which helps enhance saliva production. 

Keep a Check on Alcohol and Caffeine 

As mentioned earlier, excessive use of caffeine and alcohol can lead to a shortage of saliva so it is important to keep a check on the intake of both. 

Increase Water Intake 

Though water is not a substitute for saliva, increasing water intake helps ease the symptoms. Here you should remember that most bottled water does not contain fluoride. This means that for a sufficient amount of fluoride, you will still have to rely on fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash. 

Rely on Natural Moisturiser 

Most cases of severe dryness can benefit from the use of natural products such as carboxymethyl cellulose gels and ointments. Others have found a mixture of water and glycerin very effective. 

Use a Humidifier 

Use of a room humidifier will keep your nasal and respiratory passages moist. As a result, even if you breathe with your mouth open, your internal membranes will remain moist and you are less likely to experience dry mouth. 

Avoid Medicines Which Lead to Dry Mouth 

It is important to discuss the side effects of all the drugs with your primary healthcare provider. In case you have prescribed a medicine that leads to dry mouth, you can always ask your healthcare provider to prescribe an alternate one.  

Use of Floss and Mouthwash 

Flossing and use of mouthwash are critical for maintaining oral health. But in case of dry mouth, you should beware of the type of mouthwash you need to use. Alcohol-based mouthwashes such as Listerine can actually kill the healthy bacteria in the mouth and result in more dryness. So non-alcoholic mouthwashes are a better choice if you already have a dry mouth. 

Go for Prescribed Medicines to Stimulate Saliva Production 

In case of more severe cases, you can always go for prescribed treatment to increase saliva production. However, it is essential that you seek advice from your healthcare provider before you start any treatment to stimulate the production of saliva in the mouth. 

Take Special Care of Your Oral Health 

In some cases, there is no effective way to treat dry mouth. In that case, protecting your oral cavity becomes a priority. Regularly see your dentist to identify and treat any cavities or other issues with your teeth and gum. Since the natural lubricant is not present, you might also need regular cleaning.

Some Common Dental Problems in Children

Children, Smile, Eyes, Happy, Smiling, Joy

Anyone who has brought their child to the dentist knows it’s not a pleasant experience, neither for the child nor for the parent.

Unfortunately, cavities in children are as common as the seasons. As a parent, knowing some of the common dental issues can help you identify potential problems and improve the oral health of your children. Let’s take a look at what these dental issues are.


Tooth Decay 

During these early years of discovery, children often tend to try foods and stick to habits that are certainly not good for their oral health. The gummy candies, sweets, ice cream, irregular brushing, and missing visits to the dentist all lead to oral health problems. 

Tooth Decay is one of the most common dental problems in children. Around 20% of children in the US between the ages of 5 and 11 suffer from tooth decay. And the untreated and persistent condition continues well into adulthood for 13% of adolescents. In Australia, the problem is much more severe. There, half of all 12-year-olds have decay in their permanent teeth. This dental problem accounts for more than hundreds and thousands of lost school days throughout the world.

Tooth decay is caused by poor oral hygiene. This includes irregular brushing as well as not seeing a dentist regularly and eating carbohydrate-rich diets which include soda, juices, and canned fruit. All these factors allow a certain type of bacteria to thrive in the mouth. As a result, a sticky build-up known as plaque builds up in the mouth. Over time, when exposed to food, plaque produces acid which erodes the outer layer of the tooth (known as enamel). Eventually, the inner layers of the teeth continue to get affected by the plaque, which gradually leads to tooth decay. 

On a positive note, tooth decay is a preventable condition. Proper brushing, a healthy diet, and regular visits to a dentist can help reduce the chances of a child developing this condition. It is important to brush properly twice a day with fluoride-rich toothpaste. Also, ensure that children as young as two years old floss their teeth regularly. Yes, easier said than done but worthwhile if you can get them to do it! You also need to make sure that your child avoids sugary foods, especially before bedtime, and visits a dentist at least once a year. 

Bad Breath 

Bad breath is another most common dental issue among adults as well as children. Often, bad breath is a result of the foods we consume. Foods with a strong smell such as garlic can lead to this. But if this is a persistent issue, it is an indication of other underlying issues. 

Bad breath, medically known as halitosis, is caused by bacteria that reside in the mouth. This bacteria lives in colonies and survives on leftover food particles and plaque. As they eat food, they produce hydrogen sulfide which results in bad breath. The problem is most common in children in the morning. Since the bacteria continue to thrive at night, it results in halitosis. Sometimes, bad breath can be a result of other oral conditions such as gum problems, poor hygiene, and problems of the digestive system. 

One of the best ways to prevent the problem of bad breath is regular and proper brushing. It is important to brush the tongue as well to remove the bacteria in the mouth. The use of antibacterial mouthwash can also help reduce this problem. If the problem persists throughout the day, you should get a dentist’s appointment for your child. 

Tooth Sensitivity 

Tooth anatomy isolated on white background

Another common dental issue in children is tooth sensitivity. This happens when the top layer of the tooth gets damaged by the bacteria.

The top layer of the tooth (AKA enamel) helps protect the inner parts of the teeth and nerves from getting damaged. When the enamel gets eroded by bacteria, it can expose the inner parts and nerve endings of the teeth. As a result, the tooth becomes more sensitive to cold and heat. If a child has tooth sensitivity, hot and cold food will cause irritation and discomfort. But in more severe cases where teeth are extremely sensitive, even breathing in hot and cold air can cause pain. 

While anyone, regardless of age, can have tooth sensitivity, the problem is more common among kids. This is because their enamel is thinner compared to adults. Also since their diet includes too many carbohydrates, it results in damage to the enamel along with a buildup of plaque. While tooth sensitivity is primarily caused by damage to the enamel, other problems such as cavities can also lead to tooth sensitivity.  

Just like most other dental problems, tooth sensitivity can be treated. However, this time good oral hygiene practices alone won’t help much and you will need to see the dentist. Dentists often recommend the application of a fluoride sealant to the teeth. This helps reduce sensitivity and strengthens tooth enamel. Also, it is recommended that children use a toothbrush with soft bristles. Using a toothbrush with hard bristles can damage the surface of the teeth over time. 

Keeping Your Child’s Teeth Healthy 

The solution to all dental issues in children lies in maintaining oral hygiene and visiting dentists regularly. Regular brushing and other oral hygiene practices such as flossing and the use of mouthwash will help keep dental problems to a minimum. But in case something arises, a visit to the dentist can certainly allow you to diagnose and treat any potential dental problem and set up your child’s teeth for a healthier future.    

Unhealthy Gums: The Precursor to Many Other Diseases

A focused teeth model with a blurred background
Photo by PENCHAN –

Many people don’t consider oral health issues worthy of medical treatment. This is the reason why they tend to persist with plaque — the hardened layer of bacteria on the teeth. The untreated plaque buildup leads to swollen and bloody gums, the condition which is medically known as gingivitis. If it’s left untreated, Gingivitis eventually aggravates into periodontitis. This is an acute periodontal condition where the entire supporting structure of the oral cavity gets infected.

The continuous medical research shows that periodontal diseases are not just detrimental to the oral cavity. The unhealthy gums go on to cause many other medical complications as well.  According to the statistics furnished by the CDC, nearly half of the US adult population is suffering from some sort of periodontal disease, attributing to other diseases as well. In this article, we are going to discuss some unforeseen connections between gum problems and various other medical issues.

Gum Diseases and Cardiovascular Complications

It’s not entirely necessary that people with heart issues also have any periodontal disease. Nor is it a convention that people with unhealthy gums eventually develop some cardiovascular problem. Nevertheless, there is some correlation between the two.

Smokers and people who frequently consume alcohol are two groups that can simultaneously develop gum and heart issues due to the side effects of their respective habits. Apart from these, there are some cases where unhealthy gums can become the underlying cause of cardiovascular disease.

Gingivitis is the disease that entails the inflammation of gums caused by bacteria found in the plaque. These bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the swollen gums to infest the arteries and the organs. In other words, the inflammation of gums can lead to the inflammation of different parts of the cardiovascular system which can lead to the eventual development of a more serious condition.

According to one research report, P. gingivalis is the most common found bacterium in the coronary arteries. This bacteria species actually instigates the periodontitis in the oral cavity that weakens the fleshy supporting structure of teeth. This bacterium can also deteriorate the artery walls to make hypertension a more serious problem for affected people.

Gum Diseases and Alzheimer’s

The connection between oral health issues and neurological problems also looks implausible. However, a growing body of research suggests that there is some definite connection between gum disease and the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. There are two major findings that establish a connection between oral health issues and this most common cause of dementia.

One study conducted on the people suffering from Alzheimer’s shows that P. gingivalis is most likely to be present in their brains. Recent research has established a finer link between the two. Scientists have found out that the inflammation caused by P. gingivalis actually catalyzes the production of beta-amyloid—the protein that aggregates in the brain in the form of a plaque to cause Alzheimer’s.  

This study has also changed the perception regarding the development of Alzheimer’s. For instance, for long, it was believed that Alzheimer’s is the function of age i.e. it eventually develops as one grows old. However, this study has indicated that the onset of Alzheimer’s in some cases takes place in response to the presence of a pathogen. In other words, people who take good care of their oral health might not experience the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in the later stages of life.

Gum Diseases and Cancer

There is no established connection between the two. People suffering from gum diseases generally don’t go on to develop a malignant tumor. However, several studies have unearthed the connection between teeth loss and the prevalence of cancerous tumor. But these studies have failed to establish any physiological connection between these two conditions.

There is a research paper that has somewhat tried to explain the correlation between gum diseases and tumors. Treponema denticola is bacteria found on swollen gums and other diseased parts of the oral cavity. According to the paper, the same bacteria are also found in some gastrointestinal tumors. The study, however, doesn’t discuss the role of this bacterium in the development of the tumor.

More research is needed to be conducted in order to understand the correlation between gum diseases and cancerous tumors.

Gum Diseases and Respiratory Issues

The development of respiratory issues is the least surprising among all the detrimental effects of gum diseases. It makes sense that unhealthy gums can also cause respiratory issues since both the oral cavity and lungs have the same access point i.e. the mouth. A research paper published just last month indicates that people with chronic gum issues are more likely to experience deteriorated respiratory functions.

The more direct connection between oral diseases and respiratory health is of course inflammation. The inflammation spreading out from the oral cavity can swell the bronchial tubes. This can result in the contraction of their diameters and the subsequent restriction of air flow. Besides cell-to-cell inflammation spread, the inhalation of bacteria-laden air from the oral cavity into the lungs can also cause infections and direct inflammation.

Scientists have also talked about the possibility that periodontal diseases can also lead to the onset of lung cancer. They theorize that enzymes produced due to bacterial action in the oral cavity can eventually end up in the lungs where they can promote the growth of pathogens. The presence of pathogens among respiratory tissues can change cell behavior into malignant nature.

How to Maintain a Healthy Mouth

Woman brushing her teeth
Preventing gum disease starts with good dental health

It is clear that periodontal diseases can have far-reaching implications. By establishing good dental hygiene and dietary management, you can significantly decrease the likelihood of gum disease and subsequent serious issues discussed above.


Here are some of the most important ways to keep your gums happy:

    • Using a powered brush is better than using a standard brush.
    • Floss daily and don’t forget to brush your teeth before going to bed.A
    • Always do post-meal gargles, particularly after consuming extra sugary and starchy substances

It is also important to go for a dental checkup even when you are not suffering from any apparent periodontal issue. A good dental cleaning is better than anything you can do on your own and is highly recommended. In addition, the dentist will be able to find any detrimental factors in your mouth that need attention.