According to the Canadian Dental Association, good dental health “contributes positively to your physical, mental and social well-being and to the enjoyment of life’s possibilities, by allowing you to speak, eat and socialize unhindered by pain, discomfort or embarrassment.”
Unfortunately, poor dental health can be found at all ages and socioeconomic levels. In children, tooth decay is the most common infectious disease and is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. Tooth decay is preventable and National Oral Health Month is a great time to learn more about this condition.
What are cavities?
Cavities, or tooth decay, happen when the hard outside layer of a tooth (enamel) has been eaten away or demineralized by acids, forming a hole in the tooth.
Where do the acids that attack teeth come from?
Specific cavity-causing bacteria in our mouths make acids by using the sugars in foods that we eat. Some acids also come straight from foods like juice and pop. Every time we eat something that has sugars or acids, our teeth are attacked or broken down by these acids for about 20 minutes, but this acid attack can be even longer if we choose sticky foods that are able to stay on our teeth. Fluoride in toothpaste, water, or rinses works to protect our teeth against acid attacks no matter what age we are.
How can I protect my teeth from acid attacks?
- Avoid acidic foods and drinks like pop, juice, iced tea, lemonade, and energy drinks. Drink water for thirst instead.
- Avoid constant snacking or “grazing.”
- Choose a variety of healthy foods and snacks every day.
- Limit how often you choose foods with added sugar.
- Brush your teeth in the morning and at night with small amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- When you can’t brush right after a meal or snack, help dilute acids and sugars by rinsing with water or chewing sugarless gum.
- See your dental office regularly, approximately every six months. Tooth decay and more serious oral cancers often do not show signs or symptoms until they’re big problems. Early detection is critical so aim to catch small problems early, before they become big problems!
About Brenda Matsen
Born and raised in B.C., Brenda completed her diploma in dental hygiene in 1987, moved back to northern B.C. to work, raised her four sons in Prince George and, in 2009, obtained her BHSc. Brenda is the manager of the Northern Health Dental Program and has been with Northern Health since 2002. She is passionate about making a difference and appreciates the "can do" attitude of fellow northerners. When not at work, Brenda can be found enjoying the great outdoors in a variety of activities with her husband and Vizslas, throughout all our beautiful seasons.