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NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus Dr. Ed Monroe DDS fits patient Ken Andrews of Peru with crowns at Monroe’s dentistry office in La Salle. Monroe says good oral health not only keeps cavities away but also leads to good overall health.
And chances are you’ve had one. But they don’t have to happen often. Cavities can be prevented by doing the following: - Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste after every meal or at least twice a day. Bedtime is an important time to brush. - Brush up and down in a circular motion. This allows the bristles on a tooth brush to reach under your gums and in between teeth. - Gently brush your gums as well to keep them healthy. - Floss your teeth once a day to remove plaque and food that’s stuck between your teeth. - Limit sweets and sugary drinks such as soda. - Visit your dentist twice a year for regular checkups.
That’s the message La Salle dentist Dr. Ed Monroe DDS has for his patients when it comes to overall oral health and the constant fight people have against tooth decay.
“A lot of times people with a lot of bacteria in their mouth are running a higher than normal temperature,” Monroe said. “That feverish temperature is caused by the body trying to fight off infection in the body which entered as bacteria through the gums.”
Oral bacteria also cause other problems such as cavities.
Simply put, a cavity is a hole in your tooth that can and will grow bigger and deeper over time.
Plaque, a sticky, slimy substance, is made up of a large quantity of bacteria. The bacteria in the mouth feed off of sugars and create acids. So when plaque clings to teeth, the resulting acids over time slowly eat away at the outermost layer of the tooth called the enamel. Underneath the enamel is the second, softer layer of tooth called dentin.
Acids continue their corrosive impact on enamel and dentin to the point they reach the nerve endings inside your tooth. That’s when tooth pain occurs, either when eating hot or cold foods, or if you breathe in real sharply on a really cold day.
Dentists can repair cavities by first drilling away the rotten part of the tooth. The leftover hole is then filled with a material specially designed to adhere to teeth and fill the cavity.
If a cavity is left untreated and the harmful acids reach the nerve endings in a tooth a dentist will then need to perform a root canal. That’s a procedure where the nerve is destroyed and a crown is set over the remaining tooth.
But the best way to prevent tooth decay and improve overall oral health is prevention.
“We can eat fruits and vegetables that are low in sugar to keep dental decay away,” Monroe said. “But generally proper brushing and flossing are the best ways.”
Monroe says people should brush their teeth with a fluoride toothpaste in a circular motion for two full minutes. However, he says most people if timed actually only brush for about 30 seconds, which isn’t long enough.
“We recommend a mechanical toothbrush with a timer set at two minutes because most people do not brush long enough even though they think they do,” Monroe said. “And people with excessive bacteria in their mouth should be brushing for four minutes.”
Monroe emphasized the importance of dental checkups twice per year. He said modern advances in digital X-rays allow dentists to identify very small cavities early which are much less costly to treat.
“Go to your dentist every six months because most dental decays are painless,” Monroe said. “Early detection is best because it’s cheaper and easier than waiting.”