Change in diet can prevent tooth decay

Nov. 30, 2009 at 5:30 a.m.
Updated Dec. 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.

If you are a senior citizen or if you are taking a lot of medication, the information below may save you time, emotion and money by keeping you out of a dentist's chair.

Don't get me wrong. I love being a dentist, but I fully recognize that few people want to be poked, drilled and charged good money because of dental decay.

So, if you want to be free of decay, please continue reading.

As I can personally attest, things change as we age. I see it in myself and certainly with my patients who have been with me for years.

The amount of medicine I see people taking is overwhelming compared to the way it was when I first began my practice.

Modern medicine has extended our life span tremendously, but these technological advancements also have side effects, like dry mouth, that can cause massive decay on previously perfectly healthy teeth, even if those teeth have been crowned.

The number one preventive strategy for dental decay is healthy saliva.

Healthy saliva maintains the correct acid balance in the mouth, while it constantly cleans and washes the teeth of debris.

Saliva contains the ability to fight decay via the immune system. So if one suffers from medicine induced dry mouth, where saliva is greatly decreased or ceases to exist, dental decay becomes a significant issue, where previously there was none.

Most people think that only sugar or sweets can cause decay. Not true. When a simple carbohydrate, such as the fabulous saltine cracker is eaten and not washed away by saliva, it quickly becomes a refined sugar capable of causing decay at a very rapid rate.

The next time you eat any kind of cracker, notice how it tends to cling to the teeth near the gum line and in between the teeth.

The dryer the mouth, the more it collects and the longer it stays in one place. In a very short period of time, decay-causing bacteria can invade the rich carbohydrate left in the mouth and begin to feed.

When the bacteria multiply, it produces acid and that acid attacks the teeth causing the dreaded decay.

There is another misconception that crowned teeth cannot get decay. However, saying a crown will completely protect a tooth is like saying a small umbrella will keep your entire body dry in a driving thunderstorm.

The truth is that the crown only covers and protects a certain percentage of the tooth. Areas of the tooth that are not covered by the crown are exposed to bacteria and subject to decay.

So, what can you do to prevent this decay problem in a dry mouth?

First, it is wise to restrict refined carbohydrates, which include crackers, breads, and pastas. Drink plenty of fluids while eating and brush, floss and water pick after eating.

After cleaning the teeth, do the tongue test, moving your tongue over the necks of each tooth. If you feel something is there, get it out gently with a brush or floss.

I have found that once a person knows what a very clean mouth feels like, they can stand nothing else. Any particle of food will drive them crazy until they get it out.

Once a person reaches this stage, they can be quite sure their chances of getting decay will be greatly diminished.

Mac Lee is a dentist in practice in Edna. He is the co-founder of Dentists Who Care, a national movement to educate the public on modern dentistry. If you have dental questions you can call him at 361-782-7191 or visit him at



Powered By AffectDigitalMedia