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In the dental industry proper, rotten teeth (or bad teeth) are called caries (this roughly translates from the Latin as "rot”).
When a person has dental caries, its highly likely that they will develop cavities and potentially loose teeth over time. Bad rotten teeth are particularly prevalent in children and adolescents.
Rotten teeth develop most commonly because of three issues in a person's mouth. The first is bacteria that lives there, specifically in plaque. When sugar (factor number two in rotten teeth) interacts with the plaque it makes acid as a normal by-product.
This acid slowly wears away tooth enamel especially on a tooth surface that may already be susceptible (factor three).
While it's nearly impossible to avoid all sugars to protect our teeth, we can avoid rotten teeth many times simply by practicing good dental hygiene.
By flossing your teeth carefully every day and brushing twice daily for two minutes at a time with a fluoride toothpaste, you get rid of a lot of the bacteria and deter plaque build-up.
When this daily routine combines with bi-annual professional cleaning and exams, it greatly decreases the risk of developing rotten teeth. Additionally there are sealants that can be put on children's teeth to protect them even further.
While most dental sealants re used for children, they can be applied to adult teeth too. The idea is to apply a coating to the grooves in a tooth. This coating makes it harder for plaque to develop and also makes a smooth surface for when you brush your teeth.
The cost to seal a tooth as a preventative measure to avoid rotten teeth is about $30 per tooth on average (prices vary regionally).
Once in place, sealants can last a very long time, often up to five years. When you have your exams, your dentist will be able to determine if a sealant has come off, and if you're a good candidate for re-application.
Another good partner in the fight against rotten teeth in children is fluoride treatments. Fluoride helps make teeth resistant to the acid that plaque naturally produces when it comes into contact with sugar.
Fluoride toothpastes and mouth washes are readily available over-the-counter, or you can get fluoride treatments at the dentist's office.
Topical fluoride not only fights tooth decay but can improve the strength of developing teeth. Most dentists recommend fluoride treatments for children under the age of 16 every six months to decrease the risk of cavities and rotten teeth.
If you know you've got bad teeth in the making, see a dentist as soon as possible The longer you allow dental caries to remain untreated, the more damage they'll do.
Eventually a tooth's root can be compromised. Not only is this very painful, but may require removing part of the tooth (replacing it with a filling) or taking all of the affected tooth (replacing it with a bridge or implant).
Early diagnosis and treatment not only save teeth, but may avoid costly procedures like root canals due to bad rotten teeth.