Care to prevent tooth decay

  • Published : Aug 25, 2011 - 18:44
  • Updated : Aug 25, 2011 - 18:44
While going to the dentist may be your greatest fear, overwhelming treatment costs can worsen your experience. 
Park Ki-tae

The best way to minimize visits to the dentist or high cost bills is to seek prevention methods to improve your dental health.

Tooth decay is the most common cause for young children or youths to lose teeth. The enamel surface of the teeth is not very strong against the acid from dental plaque when they first emerge in the mouth. This is one of the reasons why young children easily have tooth decay. Another reason comes from inadequately taking care of oral health at home.

In order to prevent tooth decay, you must keep your teeth and mouth clean by appropriately brushing and flossing your teeth. In addition, it is also very important to receive regular check-ups from your dentist every six months, where he or she will be able to advise you on prevention and diet methods to improve your oral health.

Flossing is another way of preventing tooth decay that must be combined with tooth brushing. Without flossing, you are not able to remove food debris between your teeth, which may cause tooth decay on the proximal surface. 

Tooth decay on the sides of the teeth is more harmful than that on the chewing surface because more tooth structure has to be removed for treatment.

It is best to floss after meals; however, it is also helpful to floss at least once a day before brushing at night. This will allow for your toothpaste to penetrate better between your teeth where fluoride from your tooth paste will help to prevent tooth decay.

Fluoride can make the enamel surface of the teeth stronger against tooth decay. Therefore, on your regular visits to the dentist, it is important to receive tooth cleaning and polishing, as well as fluoride application to help prevent tooth decay. While tooth decay on the sides of the teeth can be prevented through fluoride application, tooth decay on the chewing surface is difficult to prevent with only fluoride. Many pits and fissures exist on the chewing surface of the back teeth, where bacteria multiplies rapidly, making it more difficult to fully clean your teeth.

One solution to this is applying sealant, which can prevent tooth decay by sealing the nooks and crannies there. Sealant can be applied on baby teeth for young children at any age, but it is usually applied for children over 6 or when their first permanent molar is fully erupted. Depending on the child, the first permanent molar can erupt at different pace; thus, it is important to ask your dentist on whether pit and fissure sealant is appropriate for your child.

Tooth decay can easily be prevented with simple and easy techniques. When it comes to children, it is especially recommended to reinforce appropriate tooth brushing and flossing skills in order to prevent poor oral health.

With both prevention methods and making periodic visits to the dentist, you will be able to minimize your concerns about going through difficult and costly dental treatments in no time. 

By Park Ki-tae D.D.S., Ph.D.

The author is chairman of department of pediatric dentistry at Samsung Medical Center and professor of Sungkyunkwan University School of medicine. ― Ed.