Tooth Decay – What Causes It?

People of all ages can experience tooth decay and erosion, and dentists regularly treat these issues. Tooth decay is caused by the presence of acid causing bacteria in the mouth, which consume sugars and starches left on your teeth after consuming a meal or drinking a sugary beverage. The best way to prevent tooth decay is to practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly. In this blog post, Ballan Family Dental will be filling you in on everything you need to know about tooth decay, including treatment options and tips for prevention.

How Does Tooth Decay Occur?

Bacteria are always present within the human mouth, including the teeth, cheeks, gums, throat and tongue. A sticky layer of bacteria rich plaque is always developing on the surface of the teeth, but with regular brushing and flossing it is easily removed. Whilst many of these bacteria are beneficial and aid in the digestion process, others feed off sugar and starch left behind after eating/drinking and produce acid. The acid produced by the bacteria damages the protective layer of tooth enamel, which may eventually lead to the development of cavities.  

Both children and adults can experience tooth decay. Diet and oral hygiene practices are two of the most significant factors in reducing your risk of tooth decay. Whilst bacteria is always present within the mouth, healthy levels can be maintained by brushing twice daily. 

Factors which Increase Risk of Tooth Decay

Repeated acid attacks will cause significant wear to the protective enamel on your teeth, making teeth more susceptible to cavities, sensitivity and discolouration. The following can increase your chances of experiencing tooth decay:

  • Failing to brush/floss regularly
  • Not visiting the dentist for 6-monthly check-ups
  • Consuming a diet high in sugar/carbohydrates
  • A lack of fluoride 
  • A lack of saliva/dry mouth which may be caused by a condition such as xerostomia, mouth breathing or prescription medication. 
  • Smoking and use of other tobacco products
  • Diabetes

Tips for Preventing Tooth Decay

  • Brushing and flossing twice daily is the best way to reduce your risk of tooth decay. Plaque forms on and between the teeth as well as below the gum line, and flossing aids in removal from these difficult areas. 
  • By attending regular dental appointments, you will have a better understanding of any problems which may be present and how to prevent them from getting worse. Preventative dentistry is all about helping you to keep a healthy smile for life. 
  • Avoid or reduce consumption of foods/beverages high in starch and sugar. 
  • Chew sugar-free gum after meals to help dislodge stuck food particles, improve saliva flow and freshen breath.
  • Avoid snacking in between meals, as this increases the number of times teeth are exposure to acid.
  • Use a straw when drinking fruit juices/soft drinks.
  • Ensure that your water contains fluoride to help strengthen and remineralize tooth enamel. 

How is tooth decay treated?

If a cavity has formed, your dentist will prepare a treatment plan. Depending on the severity of decay, your dentist may propose either fluoride treatment or closing affected teeth with a filling or dental crown. If decay has caused the root of the tooth to be exposed, you may need to undergo root canal treatment. 

Book an Appointment at Ballan Family Dental Today

It is important to identify and treat tooth decay in the early stages. During a routine check, Ballan Family Dental will carry out a thorough examination and clean and inform you if there are any signs of tooth decay. Call now on 03 4310 3811 to book an appointment, or book online 24/7. We’re your local dentist in Ballan, and we look forward to seeing you soon.