1. What is meant by dental disease?

Dental disease is understood by most people to be either Tooth Decay (Dental Caries) or Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease).

Tooth Decay. This is the form of dental disease which affects the hard substance – enamel - of the tooth. It results in parts of the tooth being destroyed and if it not attended to by having the decay removed and replaced with a filling, then the tooth could eventually might need to be root treated or extracted.

Gum Disease. This is the form of dental disease which affects those structures which support the tooth in the jaw bone. It comprises the bone surrounding the tooth roots, the fibres by which the tooth root is suspended in the bone and it also includes the soft gum tissue that surrounds the tooth.

2. What causes dental disease?

Bacteria are found in large numbers in a healthy mouth and it is only when certain factors in their surrounding environment occur that they are activated to cause dental disease. In both Tooth Decay and Gum Disease an activating agent is refined carbohydrate –from the diet – especially sugars of which sucrose – the common sugar used in confectionery etc. is the biggest offender.

Tooth Decay (Dental Caries) starts when bacteria on the surface of the tooth react with sugar to produce acid which attacks the hard surface of the tooth – enamel - leaving microscopic pits in it. Bacteria invade these pits and the process of acid production can repeat itself over and over again with the resultant continuing destruction of tooth substance. The process of tooth decay can be represented by the equation

Bacteria + Sugar = Acid Production = Tooth Decay (Dental Caries)
Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease) starts when bacteria inhabiting the groove (sulcus) which exists between the gum tissue and the surface of the tooth, including the area between the teeth, react with sugar to produce toxins (poisons to healthy human tissue). These toxins cause the surrounding soft gum tissue to get inflamed and it swells. The swollen gum tissue houses more bacteria and the process of generating more toxins continues. The disease can progress to such a degree that the bone supporting the tooth becomes destroyed and the tooth becomes loose and may eventually have to be extracted. The process of gum disease can be represented by the equation Bacteria + Sugar = Toxin Production = Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease)

3. How do you prevent Dental Disease?

From the two equations shown above it can be seen that by removing any one item on the left of the equation it will interrupt the disease process involved. So that if you remove sugar from the diet then both processes would end. However it is totally impractical to remove sugars from your diet when you consider that even foods which are acidic in taste, e.g. pickles; have a high content of sugar. The more realistic and most important thing you can do is to remove ALL the bacteria from ALL the tooth surfaces, including those surfaces between the teeth which are more difficult to reach. This action will prevent both tooth decay and gum disease. The only practical way to remove the bacteria from all the sites involved is by Tooth Brushing and Flossing and Interdental BrushingLinks to:

4. What other preventive measures can you take?

The most important additional single measure you can take to reduce the incidence of dental decay is to use a toothpaste containing fluoride. The fluoride combines with the calcium apatite – the main structure of dental enamel – to make the enamel much harder and therefore more resistant to acid attack. Avoid eating between meals especially sweet things. Avoid drinking acidic fruit juices and sweet drinks between meals. If you do indulge then try to drink some water as soon after as possible. This will dilute or remove the acid in your mouth. Chew a piece of sugar free gum for up to 20 minutes after eating. Chewing gum stimulates your saliva production which is alkaline and assists in neutralising any acid present.



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