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 It’s Never too Late to Straighten Your Smile

Braces as an adult? No way. At least, that was what I thought when my dentist told me that I was going to have to see an orthodontist about my crooked teeth. But my teeth were so misaligned that they were causing me pain when I chewed, so I decided to at least look into it. Turns out braces today are nothing like the ones my friends had when I was a kid. Mine were practically invisible, and I didn't need to wear them that long. I started this blog to encourage other people like me who are nervous about the prospect of wearing braces as an adult. My straight smile is so worth the trips to the orthodontist, and wearing braces was nowhere near as bad as I thought. Read on to find out more about how you can straighten your smile.

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It’s Never too Late to Straighten Your Smile

The Deadly Truth About Tooth Decay

by Jacqueline Byrd

Tooth decay is a common problem. A study found that in 2011-2012, around 91% of American adults had dental caries. A different survey found that 42% of kids between the ages of two and eleven had cavities. Because tooth decay is so common, it's easy to think of it as a minor problem, with consequences no worse than an imperfect smile or the inconvenience of having to take time off work to get a filling. But the consequences of tooth decay can sometimes be much more severe than you would ordinarily think. Take a look at what you need to know about the more serious effects of tooth decay.

Enamel: The Shield Against Bacteria

Your tooth enamel is the hard layer that covers the other parts of your tooth, like the layer of dentin and the pulp of the tooth inside. It serves several purposes, but one important function of enamel is that it blocks bacteria in your mouth from penetrating through to the other layers of your tooth, as well as to the gum and bone below it.

When your tooth begins to decay, you develop small holes in your enamel, called cavities. If left untreated, the holes will grow larger, but even if the cavity is very small, it's big enough for bacteria to get through. And when bacteria reaches the inner layers of your tooth, your gums, or your jawbone, you can quickly develop a very large problem.

Not Just a Toothache

Tooth decay can cause toothaches even without the help of infection-causing bacteria. A cavity can expose nerves that leave your teeth sensitive to hot, cold, sweet, or spicy food, so you may feel pain while eating or drinking. However, it's important that you not mistake a tooth infection for just another toothache. A tooth infection can be much more serious.

When bacteria enters your tooth and causes an infection, you can develop a dental abscess. This is when a buildup of pus forms inside your mouth, either in the teeth or along your gum line. Not only is that gross, it's dangerous – an abscess is a dental emergency for good reason. The infection may cause you to run a fever, and without treatment, it can spread to other parts of your body.

The infection from an abscessed tooth can spread to the blood, causing sepsis, or to the brain, causing it to swell. In 2007, a twelve-year old Maryland boy died as the result of a tooth infection that spread to his brain. He's not the only one, either. Dying from the result of a tooth infection is rare, but not unheard of – one report found 66 people who passed away in hospitals because of complications from untreated tooth decay. Many others recover, but still spend time sick and suffering because of a tooth infection that went untreated for too long.

Treatment and Prevention

It's important for a tooth infection or abscess to be treated promptly. Patients will need antibiotics to wipe out the infection and often also need root canal treatment to prevent new infections. If the infection recurs even after root canal treatment, a tooth extraction may be necessary.

However, if you can prevent tooth decay, you can prevent most of the infections that lead to serious illnesses or even fatalities. For most people, tooth decay is very preventable. Daily flossing and brushing prevents decay-causing bacteria from creating cavities in your teeth. Fluoride-treated tap water and fluoride rinses help strengthen and harden enamel, making your teeth less likely to decay. Regular visits to the dentists for checkups can ensure that you're caring for your teeth properly and can catch signs of decay early, so it can be treated and stopped before it causes infections. Some patients may need to take extra precautions against tooth decay if they're at increased risk for tooth decay because of medical conditions, medications, or other factors.

Tooth decay is a serious problem with serious consequences, but you don't have to suffer. Talk to your dentist about your risk for tooth decay and what more you can do to prevent it. Whatever you do, don't underestimate the seriousness of tooth decay.