Complete Guide to Tooth Decay and How to Prevent it
Mar. 24, 2015
Do you pay as much attention to your oral health and hygiene as you do your physical health and well being? Many of us don’t, and lack of proper oral care can lead to painful tooth decay and a mouthful of unhealthy, unattractive teeth.
To make sure your teeth stay healthy well into your golden years, we’ve provided a guide that can help you identify and prevent tooth decay moving forward.
Types of tooth decay
Before we get into our tips for healthy teeth, we’re going to take a look at the three types of tooth decay – also known as cavities or dental caries – which are breakdowns of teeth due to bacteria.
- Root decay – Occurs on the surface of the roots of teeth, and is commonly seen among older adults who are more likely to have receding gums.
- Pit and fissure decay – Occurs on the chewing surfaces of back teeth when bacteria finds its way into the very small holes (just microns wide) that form when teeth are developing. This is the most common type of tooth decay.
- Smooth-surface decay – Occurs on the outside flat surface of teeth where plaque builds up when bacteria isn’t removed. This type of decay is the least severe and most easily treatable.
What causes tooth decay
Cavities are caused when a tooth is frequently exposed to acids created by the sugar and starches found in food and drinks. Repeated exposure can destroy the minerals in your enamel, which in turn can cause your teeth to rot.
How to prevent tooth decay
Good news – tooth decay isn’t inevitable. With proper care, you can keep your teeth healthy for years to come. Here’s how:
- Use fluoride – Brush with fluoride toothpaste and use a fluoride mouth rinse. Fluoride helps repair the minerals that acid destroys. Even our country’s tap water has a small amount of fluoride mixed in. Your dentist can also recommend a variety of fluoride-based products to help.
- Monitor your diet – As mentioned, sugary foods and drinks can cause bacteria to build in your mouth and destroy tooth enamel. We suggest limiting your consumption of sugary foods and drinks like cookies, candy, ice cream, soda and juices. You should also limit snacking between meals to give you teeth more time to repair. In fact, while you’re not eating, good bacteria in your saliva actually repairs the minerals found in your enamel!
- Brush your teeth – At least two times a day with fluoride toothpaste. Be careful not to brush too firmly, as putting too much pressure on your teeth can actually weaken your enamel.
- Floss – Try to floss at least once a day, or preferably after each meal. If you don’t floss, foods can get stuck in the spaces between your teeth and eventually cause bacteria to build up and cavities to develop.
Protect your teeth and gums! Learn more about tooth decay and dental caries and read the following resources.