What Causes Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is very common. Young people are more at risk as their tooth enamel is less resistant to decay, but anyone can develop a cavity in a tooth, at any age. Tooth decay is caused when plaque is allowed to build up on the tooth surfaces. Plaque contains bacteria that feed on the sugars found in foods, and these bacteria produce acids that soften the tooth enamel. These acids continue to attack the teeth for approximately twenty minutes after eating. After this time the mouth gradually becomes less acidic, and the tooth enamel begins to re-harden. This is why it is best to wait for at least twenty minutes after eating before brushing your teeth, as brushing too soon disrupts the hardening process.
Reducing Your Risks
There are various other things you can do to help reduce the risk of developing cavities, and these include:
- Making sure you have good oral hygiene, as regular removal of plaque will reduce the numbers of bacteria in your mouth, so there are fewer left to produce acids whenever you eat.
- Reducing the number of snacks in between meals will reduce the number of times your teeth are attacked by acids. If you do want to snack then opt for a hard piece of cheese that is full of tooth-friendly calcium, or very crunchy fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber and which contain a lot of water. Fibrous fruits and vegetables have a slight scrubbing action on the teeth and the high water content helps to wash away excess food particles.
- Avoid highly acidic beverages and foods, as the acids will directly attack your tooth enamel.
- If you are unable to produce sufficient saliva (a condition called dry mouth), ask your dentist for advice on how to deal with this problem. Saliva is essential for helping to reduce acidity in the mouth, and for washing away excess food and bacteria.
- Regular professional dental care helps ensure any early signs of cavities are detected and treated before they can cause any problems.