Fact: Our mouths are full of bacteria. In fact, hundreds of different types of bacteria live on our teeth, gums, tongue and other places in our mouths. That is what causes tooth decay. The bacteria feeds on the sugars in the foods and drinks we consume, leaving behind a sticky bio-film also known as plaque. This plaque allows bacteria to live on your teeth longer, giving it time to create acids which wear down the tooth enamel and cause cavities.
If left untreated, the eventual disease process that starts from bacteria in the mouth can potentially spread to other areas of the body. This bacteria can complicate chronic conditions ranging from diabetes to heart disease.
What causes tooth decay?
Tooth decay is typically a result of diet and oral hygiene choices. The two primary reasons why teeth decay are:
- Consuming foods high in sugar content allows more bacteria to form and thrive
- Eating foods with too much acid such as soda pop, wine, and citrus fruits. Too much exposure to acids causes your tooth enamel to break down, resulting in white spots which is an early form of enamel erosion or tooth decay.
Here are nine simple tips you can implement to prevent tooth decay:
- Brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste such as Crest, Colgate, Oral B or Arm and Hammer
- Drink lots of water to increase salivary production
- Floss your teeth once a day or use an interdental cleaning tool (a small angled brush that fits between teeth with wider spacing)
- Limit or avoid avoid sugary snacks and beverages of any type as these expose your teeth to constant bacteria and increase the production of acid
- Limit starches in your diet because they also create an acid environment in your mouth
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Tips on a balanced diet can be found on Canada’s Food Guide website.
- Visit your dentist at least twice per year for a cleanings, exams and x-rays (if necessary)
- Use a supplemental fluoride rinse, gel or varnish, or a high fluoride prescription toothpaste, to further strengthen your teeth. If you drink a lot of bottled water, for instance, you may not be getting enough fluoride.
- Use temporary dental sealants on the back teeth chewing surfaces. This may help to protect them from developing cavities. Ask your dentist if sealants make sense for you.
How to prevent tooth decay?
It’s easy! Simply limit sugary and starchy foods between meals, brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, floss at least once a day, and visit any of our locations for regular check-ups and cleanings.
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A version of this post was first published on Altima Dental Blog