Tooth Decay America’s ‘Silent’ Oral Health Epidemic

In plain sight, the problem spreads, worsens and often leads to irreparable damage. Too many people never see it coming, even if their enamel try their best to warn them.

One in four Americans are unsuspecting living with untreated tooth decay, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. This is one surprise dentists dread giving to patients. Yet, three million patients will get the news this year that they have permanently damaged areas of their teeth.

Some dentists call the country’s growing number of tooth decay cases a “silent epidemic.” The CDC notes dental cavities are the most common chronic disease among youth ages 6 to 19 and NBC reports an alarming 91 percent of Americans between 20 and 64 are affected by tooth decay.

Tooth decay, or dental caries, is the destruction of your tooth enamel. Once the hard outer layer of our teeth is gone, it’s gone like yesterday. Tooth decay targets everyone from toddlers to teens to adults. Plaque, that pesky, sticky film of bacteria constantly forming on our teeth, launches a Defcon Level 5 attack on our enamel when we fuel it with sugary and acidic foods and drinks.

Left untreated, decay works through an entire tooth, busting through the tooth enamel and the dentin layer, and all of a tooth’s layers of protection.

And cavities claim another casualty.  

Signs of a Mouth In Decay

So how do you know if your teeth are suffering from tooth decay? Seeing your dentist is the obvious answer, but here are the most common symptoms of tooth decay:

  1. Toothaches
  2. Tooth sensitivity
  3. Mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking something sweet, hot or cold
  4. Visible holes or pits in your teeth
  5. Brown, black or white staining on any surface of the tooth
  6. Pain when you bite down

Sadly, there is no cure for tooth decay beyond professional dental treatment. But tooth decay can be halted in its tracks.

Our Best Defenses Against An Incurable Disease

  • The Power of Brushing Twice A Day: As true as water is wet and the sun is hot, brushing thoroughly for two minutes twice a day coupled with regular flossing keeps your teeth healthy and ahead of cavities.
  • Trust The Dental Force: Remember, your dentist is your best friend in the fight against tooth decay. Schedule twice annual cleanings and checkups so your dentist can give you a full report on your oral health, and the measures you need to take to maintain and improve your oral health. But, Dr. Rosie Roldan, director of pediatric dentistry at Miami’s Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, stresses “what happens in between (cleanings) is even more important.”
  • The Food Factor: Foods high in sugar give the bacteria in your mouth food to chew on. Avoiding candy, soda, juice and cookies reduces the risk of developing tooth decay. Increased sugar consumption naturally increases the risk of decay.
  • Fluoride Fortitude: While there is no miracle cure, fluoride, teamed with regular brushing, allows enamel to repair itself. Enamel uses the minerals from saliva and toothpaste fluoride to heal. Strong anti-cavity fluoride toothpaste and am electric toothbrush are powerful tools in the fight against tooth decay.

Don’t Let Your Teeth Become A Lost Cause

When tooth decay penetrates all layers of a tooth, it can’t be saved. The worst cases of untreated tooth decay include malnourishment, anemia, emergency surgery, life-threatening secondary infections, and even death.

Knowledge of how to prevent tooth decay is power. Don’t let advanced tooth decay take you and your mouth by painful surprise. Undetected tooth decay is painfully costly, especially for children. While Iowa ranks 15th nationally for overall oral health, according to, many of the Hawkeye State’s children are unknowingly battling fast advancing tooth decay.

“Untreated dental care remains one of the most prevalent and preventable diseases affecting children and young people’s ability to speak, eat, play and socialize,” Cllr Izzi Seccombe of Great Britain’s Faculty of Dental Surgery told the U.K.’s Telegraph.

A strong daily oral care regimen can help us win the fight against tooth decay, and allow our teeth to eat and sleep easy. As Statistica stresses, “simple oral care can greatly reduce the chances of suffering from a number of oral conditions.”

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