Use floss to remove bits of food and plaque from under the gum line and between the teeth–because your toothbrush can’t reach these areas. If you have trouble using floss, you may want to try a floss holder or dental picks, or using a toothbrush with narrow bristles that reach between each tooth. A water flosser may also be another option.
Different types of mouth rinses can be used to freshen breath, help prevent or control tooth decay, reduce plaque and tartar, or prevent or reduce gingivitis. Rinse before or after brushing, but do not skip brushing or flossing. When shopping for mouth rinses, look for products with the ADA seal on the package. The seal tells you that the product has met the ADA’s standards for safety and effectiveness.
Why do I need x-rays?
Dental x-rays are a useful diagnostic tool when helping your dentist detect damage and disease not visible during a regular dental exam. How often x-rays should be taken depends on your present oral health, age, risk for disease, and any signs and symptoms of oral disease. For example, children may require x-rays more often than adults because their teeth and jaws are still developing and their teeth are more likely to be affected by tooth decay than those of adults. Your dentist will review your history, examine your mouth, and then decide whether or not you need x-rays.
Dental x-ray exams are safe; however, they do require very low levels of radiation exposure, which makes the risk of potentially harmful effects very small. Dental x-ray tools and techniques are designed to limit the body’s exposure to radiation and every precaution is taken to ensure that radiation exposure is “as low as reasonably achievable” (the ALARA principle). A leaded apron minimizes exposure to the abdomen and may be used when it will not interfere with acquisition of the dental radiograph. Also, a leaded thyroid collar can protect the thyroid from radiation, and should also be used whenever possible. The use of a leaded thyroid collar is recommended for women of childbearing age, pregnant women and children.
How often do I need regular check-ups and teeth cleanings?
Professional teeth cleanings are very important to your dental health. That’s because professional cleanings are essential to the removal of plaque, calculus (tartar), and tooth stains. They also give your dentist a chance to examine your mouth for cavities or gum disease. The ADA recommends that you schedule regular (every 6 months) check- ups to ensure good oral health.
Our teeth are covered with a sticky film of bacteria, called plaque. When we eat or drink anything that contains sugar bacteria turns the sugar into acids that can attack tooth enamel. Over time, these attacks may cause tooth decay, or cavities, in the tiny grooves in your teeth. Dental sealants protect the teeth and may prevent decay. Sealants are easy to apply. It only takes a few minutes to seal each tooth. First, the tooth is cleaned and the chewing surfaces are prepared to help the sealant stick to the tooth. Then the sealant is painted onto the chewing surface where it bonds to the tooth and hardens. A special light is used to help the sealant harden. Sealants generally last several years before they need to be touched up or replaced. During regular dental visits, your dentist will check your sealants and reapply them if needed.
Sealants are most often placed in children and teenagers, since tooth decay can start soon after teeth come in. Adults can sometimes benefit from sealants too, because you never outgrow the risk for developing cavities.
What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay is a disease that damages and breaks down teeth. A tooth has an outer layer (enamel), a middle layer (dentin), and a center (pulp). The more layers affected by decay, the worse the damage. Untreated tooth decay can lead to pain, loss of teeth, and even loss of confidence because of the teeth’s appearance. Bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugars found in foods and drinks. The bacteria produce acids that attack the teeth. Mouth bacteria thrive on sugar found in many foods and drinks, including: candy, soda, sports drinks, fruit juice and even milk. Each of these can lead to tooth decay. Each time these foods and drinks are consumed, acids attack the teeth for 20 minutes or longer. When you have sugary foods or drinks many times a day, or sip on the same sugary drink for long periods of time, the acid attacks you tooth enamel again and again. The acid eats away at the tooth, and can cause decay. A hole called a cavity can then form.
What is an abscessed tooth?
An abscessed tooth is a painful infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth. It is most commonly caused by severe tooth decay. Other causes of a tooth abscess include trauma to the tooth (such as when it is broken or chipped) and gingivitis or gum disease. These problems can cause openings in the tooth enamel, which allows bacteria to infect the center of the tooth (the pulp). The infection may also spread from the root of the tooth to the bones supporting the tooth.
Symptoms of an abscessed tooth are severe and continuous pain that results in a gnawing, throbbing, sharp, or shooting pain to the affected area.
If the pulp (nerve) in the root of the tooth dies as a result of infection, the pain may actually stop. However, this doesn’t mean the infection has healed; the infection remains active and continues to spread and destroy tissue. Treatment for an abscess is a root canal or extraction.
Bad breath (Halitosis)
Bad breath can result from poor dental health habits and may be a sign of other medical problems as well. If you don’t brush and floss teeth daily, food particles can remain in your mouth. This promotes bacterial growth between teeth, around the gums, and on the tongue – causing bad breath. Antibacterial mouth rinses can also help reduce bacteria.
- A minor injury to your mouth from dental work, overzealous brushing, sports mishaps, or an accidental cheek bite.
- Toothpastes and mouth rinses containing sodium lauryl sulfate.
- Food sensitivities, particularly to chocolate, coffee, strawberries, eggs, nuts, cheese, and spicy or acidic foods.
- A diet lacking in vitamin B-12, zinc, folate (folic acid) or iron.
- An allergic response to certain bacteria in your mouth.
- Helicobacter pylori, the same bacteria that cause peptic ulcers.
- Hormonal shifts during menstruation.
- Emotional stress.
Dry mouth is a common problem. It can range from being merely a nuisance to something that has a major impact on your general health and the health of your teeth, as well as your appetite and enjoyment of food.
Saliva helps prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acids produced by bacteria, limiting bacterial growth and washing away food particles. Saliva also enhances your ability to taste and makes it easier to swallow. In addition, enzymes in saliva aid in digestion.
Treatment for dry mouth depends on the cause.
Gum disease is the swelling or soreness of the gum tissues around your teeth. It is caused by bacteria in plaque, a sticky, colorless film that forms on your teeth. There are four stages of gum disease:
Stage 1: Gingivitis
Bacteria from plaque produce byproducts which irritate the gums resulting in inflammation. Gums appear swollen and red with some bleeding.
Stage 2: Early Periodontitis
Inflammation progresses into the supporting structures of the teeth, resulting in bone loss or pocketing and gums bleed easily
Stage 3: Moderate Periodontitis
Continued inflammation and destruction of the supporting structures of the teeth. Bone loss is more noticeable with possible tooth mobility. Bone loss extends between the roots of teeth
Stage 4: Advanced Periodontitis
Bone loss and tooth mobility are increased and will eventually cause loss of one or more teeth.
According to the National Institute of Dental and Cranofacial Research, lesions inside the mouth are typically the first sign of mouth cancer. However, some other signs of mouth cancer to watch for include lumps or soreness inside the mouth, difficulty chewing or swallowing, numbness and tooth pain.
Tooth sensitivity is caused by the gradual exposure of the softer part of your tooth that lies under the tooth enamel, called dentin. Dentin has tiny channels that contain nerve endings and are filled with fluid. Eating foods and drinking liquids that are hot, cold, or sweet can cause this fluid to move. This fluid movement causes the nerve to react, triggering a twinge of discomfort or a short, sharp pain. Some of the most common causes are: brushing too hard, gum disease, teeth grinding, and receding gums.
Most people grind or clench their teeth from time to time. Occasional teeth grinding, called bruxism, does not cause harm, but when teeth grinding occurs on a regular basis the teeth can be damaged and other oral health complications can occur. People grind or clench their teeth because of stress and anxiety. Often it occurs during sleep. Teeth grinding can also be caused by abnormal bite, missing teeth, or crooked teeth.
A dull, constant headache or sore jaw when you wake up is a telltale symptom of grinding. In some cases, chronic grinding can result in fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. Severe grinding can also affect your jaw, causing TMJ disorders.
Most grinding cases can be resolved by having a splint (mouth guard) made to protect your teeth. If stress is the cause, ask your doctor or dentist for options to reduce stress such as attending stress counseling, starting an exercise program, seeing a physical therapist, or obtaining a prescription for muscle relaxers.
Oral Health Topics
Women’s hormonal changes impact oral health
Hormonal changes that take place during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can influence women’s oral health, according to a study in Oral Health & Preventive Dentistry. It has been found that female hormones that fluctuate throughout a woman’s life can change conditions in the mouth that allow bacteria to grow, enter the blood, and exacerbate certain health issues.
“There’s definitely a gender-specific connection between a woman’s hormones, gum disease, and specific health issues impacting women,” Dr. Krejci stated in a university press release. Because of this, women need to be even more vigilant about maintaining healthy teeth and gums to prevent or lessen the severity of specific health issues.
Joan Otomo-Corgel, DDS, MPH, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, states: “During perimenopause to menopause, women have the potential to lose 40% of their total bone mass. They are also experiencing a huge swing in their hormones (estrogen levels), which are protective to the bone.” The bone loss women may experience in their spine and hips as a result of postmenopausal estrogen deficiency also occurs to the bone mass in their jaw. “Dentists should be aware of whether a patient is undergoing menopause in order to more acutely monitor changes in the health of her gums and underlying bone issues.”
Dentists and oral health professionals can be on the leading edge of helping women to become aware of the effects of the different stages of menopause.—Dr.Bicuspid.com
Seniors and Oral Health
Oral health is an important and often overlooked component of an older person’s general health and well-being. In the words of former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop: “You are not healthy without good oral health.” Oral health can affect general health in very direct ways. Oral health problems can cause pain and suffering as well as difficulty in speaking, chewing, and swallowing. These problems can also be a complication of certain medications used to treat systemic diseases. There are also associations between oral health and general health and well-being.
To make sure you are in good oral health, it is recommended you go to the dentist every 6 months, unless the hygienist and dentist feel more often is needed. Remember you cannot be healthy without good oral health!
Nutrition and Your Teeth
A healthy diet includes a variety of foods from each of the 5 food groups—grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and protein. Different foods have different benefits for your body. Eating a mix of healthy foods ensures that your body gets all the nutrients it needs. Why is a healthy diet important? A healthy diet provides nutrients needed for your body to work well. It also helps prevent diseases linked with being overweight, like diabetes and heart disease. A healthy diet also helps you keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Eating a healthy diet helps keep you from feeling tired, getting sick, and having other health problems, like tooth decay. Almost all foods have some type of sugar. You cannot and should not remove all sugar from your diet. Many foods and drinks like apples, carrots, and milk naturally contain sugars. They also have vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your body needs. For teeth to be healthy, they need vitamins, protein, calcium, and phosphorous.
Fluoride is a natural mineral that hardens and protects teeth by neutralizing the acid that causes decay. Several decades ago, scientists found that adding fluoride to drinking water significantly decreased the number of cavities in children and adolescents. Most of us get fluoride from the tap water we drink. Almost all of us get fluoride from toothpaste and fluoride rinses. Children and some adults receive fluoride treatments from the dentist. Fluoride is inexpensive, safe and effective. The benefit of fluoride is the reduction of tooth decay by 50-60%. The fluoride gels given at your dentist’s office twice yearly can reduce decay by 40%! There is also a 25% reduction, at least, in cavities from using fluoride toothpaste.
Piercing—like tattooing—is just one of today’s popular forms of “body art” and self-expression. Piercing may seem daring, cool and totally safe because some celebrities use body piercing to flaunt their particular style or attitude. Hip fashion magazines and videos will praise it—that is until it’s no longer deemed the “in thing” and something else comes along to replace it. However, piercing the tongue, lips, cheeks, or the uvula (the tiny tissue that hangs at the back of the throat), is not as safe as some would have you believe. That’s because the mouth’s moist environment, home to huge amounts of breeding bacteria, is an ideal place for infection.
Scaling and Root Planing
If your hygienist is discussing scaling and root planing with you, you have been diagnosed with periodontal (gum) disease. The good news is that periodontal diseases often can be treated successfully.
The first non-surgical step usually involves a special cleaning, called scaling and root planing. During the procedure the hygienist works at removing plaque and tartar deposits on teeth and root surfaces. This procedure helps gum tissue to heal and periodontal pockets to shrink. This procedure is scheduled in one or more visits, and local anesthetic may be used to make you more comfortable.
Your dentist may recommend medications to help control infection and pain or to aid healing. These medications could include a pill, mouth rinse, or a substance that the dentist places directly in the periodontal pocket after the scaling and root planing.
At the next visit, the hygienist will check the pocket depths to determine the effect of the scaling and root planing. Many patients do not require any further active treatment after this point, only preventive care. If that is the case, you will be placed on a 3 month oral health therapy appointment so that your periodontal disease does not become worse and to prevent it from recurring.
However, if the disease has advanced to the point where the periodontal pockets are deep and the supporting bone is lost, surgery may be necessary to help prevent tooth loss. You may be referred to a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in the treatment of diseases that affect the supporting structures of the teeth, gums, and bone tissue for treatment.
A missing tooth is a serious matter. Teeth are made to work together. When you lose a tooth, the nearby teeth may tilt or drift into the empty space. The teeth in the opposite jaw may also shift up or down toward the space. This movement can affect your bite and place more stress on your teeth and jaw joints. It may be harder to clean teeth that have shifted, which could lead to tooth decay and gum disease. That is why it is important to replace missing teeth.
Removable partial dentures usually have replacement teeth fixed to a plastic base that matches the color of your gums. The plastic base may cover a metal framework. Partial dentures often have some form of clasp that attaches to your natural teeth.
It takes practice to put in and take out a removable partial denture. It may feel odd or tight for the first few weeks. But in time, you should get used to it. Never force it into place by biting down, this could bend or break the clasps or damage your teeth. Removable partial dentures are not meant to be worn 24 hours a day. You should always remove the denture at bedtime and put it back in when you wake up. If you develop a sore spot, you should visit the dentist and they will adjust it.
It is best to always try and save some teeth, but if that is not possible, a full denture will be needed. A conventional complete denture is made and placed in your mouth after the teeth are taken out and the tissues have healed. The framework of the complete denture, called the base, is normally made of plastic that closely matches the color of your gums. The base of the upper denture covers the palate (roof of the mouth). When the base of the upper denture rests against the gums and palate, it makes a seal to hold the denture in place. There are a few different types of dentures: conventional, immediate, and implant-supported dentures. Before having your dentures made, it would be good to discuss with your dentist which one would be best for you.
Caring for your dentures:
Like natural teeth, you must take good care of your dentures. Here are some tips to care for your dentures.
- Dentures are delicate and may break if they are dropped. When handling your dentures, stand over a folded towel or a sink filled with cool water.
- Brush each day to remove food deposits and plaque, and to help keep the artificial teeth from getting permanent stains. Use a soft bristled brush, so as not to scratch or damage your denture.
- To clean the denture, take it out of your mouth and rinse off loose particles. Wet the brush and put the cleaner on it. Brush every denture surface gently. Use denture cleaners that have the American Dental Association seal of acceptance, a symbol of safety and effectiveness.
- Do not let your dentures dry out or they may lose their shape. When you are not wearing them, put them in a denture cleaner soaking solution or in plain water. Never soak your dentures in hot water, it may cause them to warp.
TMJ (temporomandibular joint problem)
TM (temporomandibular) disorders are a family of problems related to your complex jaw joint. If you’ve had symptoms like pain or a clicking sound, you’ll be glad to know that these problems are more easily diagnosed and treated than they were in the past. Since some types of TM problems can lead to more serious conditions, early detection and treatment are important. No one treatment can resolve TM disorders completely, and treatment takes time to be effective. TM disorders develop for many reasons. You might clench or grind your teeth, which tightens your jaw muscles and stresses your TM joint. You may also have a damaged jaw joint due to injury or disease. Whatever the cause, the results may include a mis-aligned bite, pain, clicking or grating noises when you open your mouth, or trouble opening your mouth wide. There is no simple prescription for your TM disorder. Restoring your jaw’s harmony may include several kinds of treatment to reduce muscle tension or rest to heal your jaw joint. A dental and medical evaluation helps pinpoint the causes of your TM disorder and is the first step in planning a personalized treatment program for you. Treatment may include jaw resting, ice and heat packs, exercise, dental splint, medication, or biofeedback.
Orthodontic braces are fixed appliances applied to your teeth to align your bite or straighten crooked teeth. Braces can dramatically improve the appearance of your smile, but they also improve the function of your teeth and jaw. There are many reasons braces may be recommended. Braces are not just for children, many adults are choosing to get braces to improve their smile.
There are several different types of braces:
- Traditional stainless steel braces
- Clear braces
When the pulp (the soft tissue inside the tooth that contains blood vessels and nerves), becomes diseased or injured and unable to repair itself, a Root Canal is needed. The most common causes of the pulp dying is a deep cavity, traumatic injury to the tooth, or a cracked tooth. All of these allow bacteria to enter the pulp and cause it to start dying. If the injured or diseased pulp is not removed, the tissues surrounding the root of the tooth can become infected, resulting in pain and swelling. The tooth often can be saved through root canal treatment, where the pup or remaining tissue is removed carefully from both the pulp chamber and root canal(s). Each root canal is cleaned and shaped to allow it to be filled with a rubber-like material to seal it. Then a build-up is placed to fill the access hole made for the root canal. The final step is to put a crown on the tooth to strengthen it.
After the tooth is removed, you may need stitches, if you do you may need to come back in one week to have them removed. You can gently bite down on gauze placed over the wound to help stop the bleeding. You will need to do that for 30-45 minutes depending on bleeding.
There will be options for replacing extracted teeth, such as dentures, partials, bridges, or implants, that can be discussed at the appointment
Managing Dental Pain
What is dental pain?
More often than not, dental pain comes from a cavity. If left untreated, it can affect the nerve of the tooth, which can be extremely painful. Pain can also come from your gums, roots, tongue, or your jaw. If you are experiencing dental pain, call a dentist and they can evaluate what is causing your pain and help you to alleviate it. Most of the time, dental pain does not go away. If left untreated, the pain could worsen and may cause permanent damage.
How do I manage dental pain?
Tooth pain can get intense, to the point where it disrupts life, making it impossible to eat, sleep, and concentrate. Unfortunately, toothaches tend to happen at night or on weekends when the dental office is closed. Fortunately, there are methods that can be used to manage toothache pain until you can visit the dentist.
Take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen, as directed on the package. It will help dull the pain, making it more bearable.
If swelling is present, apply an ice pack. Often tooth pain is caused by a cavity that becomes infected. Applying an ice pack to the side of your face for 20 minutes every hour will help to eliminate swelling, thereby reducing pain.
Eat soft foods, chew on the opposite side from where the pain is, and avoid extreme temperatures in food or drinks.
In case of broken or chipped teeth, press a warm piece of wax into the tooth defect. This will help prevent air, liquid, and debris from coming into contact with the sensitive or exposed nerve, thereby reducing the amount of pain that’s experienced. Visit the dentist as soon as possible. Generally tooth pain does not go away, but continues to worsen.
Pain killing medications known as anesthetics not only help a patient avoid discomfort during a procedure, but post-operatively as well.
Types of Pain Medications
Analgesics—These are common pain relievers, such as Ibuprofen and Tylenol. These work good for mild cases of discomfort.
Anesthetics—Dentists often apply topical anesthetic with a cotton swab to an area of the mouth where an injection is needed. Novocain and Lidocaine are the most common kinds of injectable anesthetics. Such medications block the nerves from transmitting signals and are used for most procedures, such as fillings or root canals.
Sedatives—Sedatives are medications designed to help a patient relax. This can be a powerful tool in avoiding pain. Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is a form of a sedative and is used in combination with over-the-counter pain relievers and anesthetics.
Conscious sedation involves administering a sedative while the patient is awake and alert.
Cleaning your teeth is an important step toward preventing cavities. Cleaning also helps remove plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that builds up on teeth. Teeth should be brushed twice a day and flossed once a day.
How to brush?
Use a pea-sized drop of toothpaste on a soft bristled tooth brush. Place the toothbrush against the gums. Move the brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes. Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower. Repeat the same method in the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of the teeth. Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria.
What are x-rays?
Basically x-rays are digital pictures of your teeth. They help the dentist see in between your teeth to detect if you have any cavities. Certain x-rays also show the roots of the teeth to help detect disease not visible during a regular dental exam. Children may require x-rays more often than adults because their teeth and jaws are still developing and their teeth are more likely to be affected by tooth decay than those of adults. Usually x-rays are taken 1 time a year.
What are sealants?
Our teeth are covered with a sticky film of bacteria, called plaque. When we eat or drink anything that contains sugar, bacteria turns the sugar into acids that can attack tooth enamel. Over time, these attacks may cause tooth decay, or cavities, in the tiny grooves in your teeth. Dental sealants protect the teeth and may prevent decay. Sealants are easy to apply. It only takes a few minutes to seal each tooth. First, the tooth is cleaned and the chewing surfaces are prepared to help the sealant stick to the tooth. Then the sealant is painted onto the chewing surface where it bonds to the tooth and hardens. A special light is used to help the sealant harden. Sealants generally last several years before they need to be touched up or replaced. During regular dental visits, your dentist will check your sealants and reapply them if needed.
Sealants are most often placed in children and teenagers, since tooth decay can start soon after teeth come in. Adults can sometimes benefit from sealants too, because you never outgrow the risk for developing cavities
What happens during a check-up?
What to eat for healthy teeth?
What you eat and when you eat can affect their teeth. Try to limit snacks in between meals. If your child is thirsty or needs a snack, avoid cookies, candy and other sweets or sticky foods. Instead, offer water or healthy foods such as fruit, carrot sticks or wheat crackers. Save sweets for mealtime, when the mouth makes more saliva to help rinse out food particles.
A healthy diet includes a variety of foods from each of the five food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and protein. Different foods have different benefits for your body. Eating a mix of healthy foods ensures that your body gets all the nutrients it needs.
Will it hurt to go to the dentist?
Visiting the dentist can be scary if you have never been there before. Our staff tries to make it the best and most enjoyable experience possible. They will walk you through each step along the way.
A good routine of eating healthy foods and brushing and flossing every day will keep your teeth healthy. If your teeth are healthy, most likely all you will ever need is oral hygiene therapy. If you ever do need something done like a filling, the dentist will use a special gel to numb your tissue before putting the tooth to sleep with Lidocaine. The injection of Lidocaine may sting for a few seconds, but it does not last long and then your lip, cheek, and tongue may feel different for a while, but that feeling goes away.
Why is a healthy diet important?
A healthy diet is important because is provides nutrients needed for your body to work well. It also helps prevent diseases linked with being overweight, like diabetes and heart disease. Eating healthy also helps you keep your teeth and gums healthy.
You can have a healthy diet by following these simple steps:
- Choose your foods wisely from each of the food groups.
- Eat foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and salt.
- Avoid foods and drinks high in added sugar, which increases the risk of tooth decay. These include beverages such as soda, sports drinks, and flavored water.
- Limit snacking throughout the day. If you do snack, make healthy choices like fruit, nuts or cheese. Eat sweets with meals instead of as snacks.
- Drink water between meals, which helps your overall health. Also drink water after eating to help wash away food particles.
Brushing helps keep your teeth clean and plaque-free. Brushing removes food particles from the surfaces of your teeth. These particles are necessary for plaque growth. Brushing also removes food particles and plaque from where the teeth and gums meet. If these food particles are not brushed away you will eventually get cavities, have gum problems, and have bad breath.
What causes bad breath?
Bad breath happens to almost everyone. While chronic bad breath (halitosis) might have more serious causes, occasional bad breath can be prevented by good oral care. In most cases bad breath is caused by the presence of oral bacteria. Bacteria can form on the tongue when you forget to brush properly, when you become dehydrated, or have dry mouth due to medications you are taking.
How do you prevent bad breath? You can prevent bad breath by brushing properly 2 times a day, and that includes brushing your tongue. Get way in the back of your tongue where bacteria likes to hang out. Flossing effectively will remove food particles from between your teeth which also can cause bad breath. Use a mouth wash that fights bad breath to keep your mouth at its freshest. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Chew sugarless gum that will stimulate saliva production.
Who needs braces?
Anyone who has a bad bite, crooked teeth, or just does not like the look of their teeth can get braces. Early treatment may help prevent things, such as a bad bite, that could cause other issues in children. If braces or other treatment are needed, the dentist may recommend them to you.
Sip all day get decay!
When you have sugary foods or drinks many times a day or sip the same sugary drink for a long time, acid attacks the enamel again and again. The acid can attack tooth enamel for up to 20 minutes after you consume sugary foods or drinks. Repeated acid attacks can cause tooth decay, which must be treated by a dentist. To reduce your risk of tooth decay, you need to limit sugary drinks and snacks between meals. Remember, many sports and energy drinks have sugar too. If you do snack, choose foods that are low in sugar and fat. If you have sugary foods and snacks, have them at mealtime. Saliva increases during meals and helps weaken acid. It also helps rinse food particles from the mouth. Chew sugarless gum that has the ADA seal. Chewing gum for 20 minutes after meals has been shown to reduce tooth decay. Drinking tap water with fluoride can help prevent tooth decay and it helps wash away sugary drinks.