Tooth decay, more commonly referred to as cavities, are one of the most common dental problems in the world today – especially in children. Cavities are permanently damaged areas in the hard surface or enamel of your teeth. If left untreated cavities can become larger in size and eventually they will begin to affect deeper layers of the tooth.
What Are the Symptoms of Tooth Decay
It’s not uncommon for patients who are dealing with cavities to experience zero symptoms prior to diagnosis by a dentist. However, warning signs of this particular dental issue might present in the following ways:
Pain when you bite down or brush
Visible holes or pits in your teeth
What Causes Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is a process that occurs over time. Unlike a chipped or cracked tooth, the route to a cavity can take several months or years. The decay is caused when plaque, a clear sticky film, forms on the tooth. Plaque occurs when sugars and starches from things that we eat and drink aren’t properly cleaned off the teeth. (https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/tooth-decay/more-info/tooth-decay-process)
Over time, the acids in the plaque will begin to attack the tooth, eating away at the hard, outer layer of enamel. This process causes small holes to form. If left untreated at this early stage the acids will begin to erode the inner layers of the teeth which can result in more serious dental issues.
Risk Factors of Tooth Decay
While anyone with teeth can be susceptible to cavities, there are certain factors that make it more likely tooth decay will develop. Some of these include:
– cavities are more likely to form on the back teeth. This is because those teeth have more grooves which create great locations for bacteria to get caught. They’re also more difficult to reach and clean thoroughly during your daily hygiene routine.
– the foods and drinks that we consume bring with them certain levels of sugars and starches. It’s these sugars and starches that bacteria inside of the mouth feed on to form plaque. Similarly, foods that are more likely to cling to the teeth allow those sugars to sit for longer periods of time before being washed away by saliva.
– As mentioned above, the reaction of the bacteria inside our mouth with the sugars and starches we consume create what are considered acid attacks on your teeth. Individuals who snack or sip on sugary drinks all day long are exposing themselves to constant acid attacks, versus those who eat at specific times and limit the exposure of their teeth to acids. For more information on this you can check out our blog on How Acids Impact Your Teeth
How to Prevent Tooth Decay
While tooth decay is a common dental problem it’s also one that you can help prevent with a good hygiene routine. Here are a few ways to help set yourself up for a healthy mouth.
Brush At Least Twice a Day –
One of the best ways to ensure you’re helping protect against cavities and tooth decay is to make sure you’re brushing your teeth at least twice a day. You should spend at least two minutes on your teeth during each brushing. Do your best to reach the back of your mouth too since that’s a common spot for bacteria to hide.
Floss Daily –
Get set up with a regular flossing routine to make sure you reach all the nooks and crannies inside your mouth. While getting the surface of your teeth is important you’ll want to be sure that you don’t neglect the area between your teeth. Food particles can become stuck in those areas of the mouth where your toothbrush can’t reach so be sure you take this extra step with your routine.
Use Fluoride –
fluoride can help prevent the occurrence of tooth decay, by both helping to prevent the demineralization of teeth as a result of acid attacks, and also through a process called remineralization where it helps to repair damage done to the tooth from acid attacks. Fluoride is an added component in many toothpastes, mouthwashes, and even in most municipal water supplies. For more detailed information about fluoride you can visit our blog about fluoride.
Visit the Dentist Regularly –
visiting the dentist once every six months is a great way to ensure a healthy mouth. With a regular cleaning, your dental hygienist is able to remove plaque and tartar buildup that your regular routine misses. In addition, your dentist will be able to get a closer look at your teeth and help prevent problem