What causes tooth decay?
Dental decay, also called dental caries, is one of the most common diseases in the world, yet very few people outside of the dental community really understand its cause. In this month’s article, we’re going to explain the causes of dental decay and help our readers learn to reduce their susceptibility to cavities.
Quite simply, dental decay is caused by bacteria. Naturally-occurring bacteria in our mouth use the carbohydrates and sugars from our diet to produce acid. The acid then attacks the tooth and causes spots of decay.
Plaque, the white substance that builds up on your teeth, is primarily made of these bacteria and their byproducts. Removing plaque from the surfaces of the teeth removes the bacteria and reduces the possibility of tooth decay.
Since we can’t spend all day cleaning our teeth, we recommend timing the brushing of your teeth to the times of day when it will be most effective. The American Dental Association recommends brushing a minimum of 2 times a day, one which should be before going to sleep. Of course brushing after eating is recommended to remove the food particles which the bacteria feed on. This not only reduces the chance of decay, but also helps prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Another thing we recommend to patients looking to stop decay is to avoid strongly acidic foods, like lemons, sodas, and sour candies. Eating a lot of acidic foods can wear down the teeth’s protective outer shell, which makes them more susceptible to bacteria and decay. If you have problems with cavities, try to eat acidic foods in moderation.
The third thing patients can do to prevent cavities is flossing. Though brushing is essential to tooth health, the toothbrush can’t get into the tight spaces between teeth. If these small spaces aren’t properly cleaned through regular flossing, cavities can form.
Finally, fluoride has greatly reduced the amount of decay since its introduction; it actually makes enamel more resistant to acids. We suggest checking to ensure that the toothpaste you use contains fluoride.
By developing good habits, you can keep your teeth in tip-top shape for a very long time. If you’re in need of a cleaning, new to the area, or looking for a good dentist, give us a call. We look forward to seeing you!