According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dental caries (tooth decay) is the most common chronic disease of children in the United States.
Teeth are made of a type of bone. While this leads us to believe that they are formidable against biological deterioration, exposure to the elements in our mouth actually threatens their long-term health.
The tooth is composed of three layers: The protective outer layer is enamel, the middle layer is the calcified tissue dentin, and the center is the pulp with a variety of important nerves and blood vessels.
What exactly is tooth decay? Most of us know it in the form of a cavity, once the germs and bacteria in your mouth have eaten away at the tooth, leaving that small hole. The deeper the tooth decay, the more layers of the tooth are affected. This also indicates the severity of the problem.
There are a few factors that contribute to tooth decay, especially for adolescents. Eating sugary foods and sodas feed bad bacteria. The bacteria that forms to become plaque use sugar as a form of energy, so with sugar, they are able multiply faster. The plaque thus grows in size and thickness and accelerates the decay process. Not practicing proper brushing and flossing technique lets this bacteria grow.
Another factor that often gets neglected is flouride intake. Flouride is added to many public water supplies because it makes teeth more resistant to plaque-produced acids.
Sometimes, children can’t control all aspect of their dental health. This is where the community has to join in.
Community water flouridation is one of the key assets to preventing tooth decay. Even though people now also get fluoride from other sources such as toothpaste, rinses, and other topical applications, the CDC recognizes flouridation as 1 of the 10 great public health achievements of the twentieth century! Many schools in the U.S. also sponsor dental sealant programs which prove to 60% less decay in pit and fissures of the back teeth.
A new generations of Americans will hopefully enjoy better oral health than their parents. However, those who are poor, racial and ethnic minority groups, the elderly still have severe dental decay. Through proper community efforts to educate and practice proper hygiene, we can all hope for a future without tooth decay.