What causes tooth decay?
Tooth decay is a disease that damages and breaks down teeth. Bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugars found in foods and drinks. The bacteria produce acids that attack the teeth. 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 your tooth enamel again and again which causes a hole or cavity to form.
Mouth bacteria thrive on all kinds of sugar, not just chocolate and sweels — fizzy drinks, sports drinks, fruit juice, and even milk. As bacteria build up on the teeth, they form a sticky film called plaque.
The stickiness of plaque keeps the harmful acids against the teeth. That’s why snacking and constant sipping can put you at risk for tooth decay.
Can it be prevented?
Yes you can reduce your risk of tooth decay by:
- Limiting sugary drinks and snacks between meals.
- If you do snack, choose foods that are low in sugar and fat.
- If you have sugary foods and drinks, have them with meals.
- Saliva increases during meals and helps weaken acid and rinse food particles from the mouth.
- Chew sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals has been shown to reduce tooth decay.
- Drink water with fluoride to help prevent tooth decay as it can help wash away sugary drinks.
- See your dentist regularly
Brushing and Flossing
- It's easy to keep your teeth and gums in good health by a simple routine of daily teeth cleaning, good eating habits and regular dental visits
- Brushing twice a day and flossing once a day will remove most of the harmful plaque and bacteria.
- Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste to help prevent tooth decay.
- Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles become frayed.
- If you have hand, arm, or shoulder problems that limit movement, you may find a powered toothbrush easier to use.
- Dental floss or other interdental cleaners can help keep the tooth surfaces clean and reduce the chance of tooth decay and gum disease.