The main culprit in tooth decay disease is acid. When food is frequently left on your teeth, bacteria that live in the mouth will thrive, which in turn produces acid. Given enough time, the acid produced by bacteria can seriously damage your enamel, causing tooth decay. Left unchecked, cavities can lead to infection and tooth loss, not to mention painful toothaches.
Preventing Tooth Decay Disease
We often use the terms “cavity” and “tooth decay” interchangeably, and we don’t tend to think of either as a disease. In reality, tooth decay is actually a disease called dental caries.
Tooth decay/caries goes through several stages before a cavity (hole) forms in the tooth, so you can have tooth decay/caries even if you can’t see a cavity. The bacteria responsible for tooth decay are most often transmitted from mother to child in the first years of life. According to this article published in the Australian Dental Journal (page 95), mothers with high levels of this bacteria in their saliva are more likely to transmit the disease to their children by sharing a utensil, kissing or otherwise sharing saliva (e.g. sucking on a dropped dummy to clean it). Once these bacteria are present in a child's mouth, the potential for disease is chronic and unlikely to ever completely disappear.
However, even the presence of decay-causing bacteria does not doom you to cavity-ridden teeth. A combination of good oral care and a good diet can keep your teeth strong.
Tooth decay is entirely preventable. If caught in the early stages, decay can be stopped or even reversed before a cavity forms. There are a number of simple things you can do to reduce your risk:
- Brush twice and floss once daily using proper brushing and flossing techniques.
- Use a toothpaste and mouth rinse with fluoride to help strengthen enamel.
- Avoid eating sweet or starchy snacks between meals. The harmful bacteria in your mouth feed off these foods and thrive when they are present.
- Chew sugarless gum flavoured with xylitol to clean your teeth when you can't brush. This reduces the plaque bacteria in your mouth and stimulates the flow of protective saliva.
- Avoid beverages that can damage your enamel, such as soft drinks, sports drinks and acidic fruit juices.
- See your dental professional regularly for check-ups and cleanings.
Taking care of your teeth on a daily basis can prevent tooth decay and cavities from forming and leave you with a healthy smile that will last a lifetime.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.