Dentist cleaning a patients teeth

Tooth Decay: Causes and Prevention

Tooth decay is the breakdown of a tooth as a result of exposure to harmful bacteria and acid. As tooth decay progresses, it can lead to a dental cavity, or a hole in the surface of the tooth.

Family dentists indicate several causes of tooth decay. Luckily, there are just as many ways to prevent it. Below is a list of tooth decay causes and some ways to protect yourself from tooth decay and cavities.

Tooth Decay Causes

Some of the things that can cause a tooth to decay include:

  • Poor oral hygiene. When you eat and drink, acid and bacteria from the food particles is accumulated on your teeth and is known as “plaque.” Brushing your teeth removes the plaque from the surface of your teeth. If you do not brush properly or often enough, the plaque stays on your teeth and begins to break down the enamel, or the outer surface of the tooth, causing decay.
  • Dry mouth. Saliva acts as a natural cleanser of plaque. If you do not produce a sufficient amount of saliva, your body will have a harder time fighting off the plaque naturally and your teeth may be more vulnerable to decay.
  • Diet. Some foods lead to more buildup of plaque than others, and therefore are more prone to causing tooth decay. Sugary substances like candy and soda along with sticky foods like raisins or jam can be big contributors to tooth decay.
  • Medical issues. Vomiting and acid reflux exposes the teeth to harmful stomach acid, which can cause decay. And certain types of medication or radiation treatment can cause an excess of bacteria to accumulate in the mouth and lead to decay.
  • Tooth location. Decay is most often found in the molars, or the teeth in the back that we use to chew food. Not only do these teeth have a higher exposure to food, but they also have grooves and pits that are great for breaking down food but also vulnerable to collecting bacteria.
  • Insufficient fluoride. Most public water supplies contain fluoride, which is a mineral that is effective in preventing tooth decay. But most bottled water companies do not put fluoride in their products, and many people are left with an insufficient amount of fluoride as a result.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Tooth cavities and decay can be prevented by adhering to the following tips:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice per day, and floss at least once daily.
  • Use an antibacterial mouthwash after brushing.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste and drink fluoride-rich tap water.
  • Visit the dentist in Wilmington, NC every 6 months for a professional cleaning.
  • Ask about having dental sealants installed on your teeth.
  • Avoid constant drinking or snacking (other than water).
  • Limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks and when you do consume them, brush your teeth immediately after.

Treat Tooth Decay at Smith Family Dentistry

If you have any decay, don’t hesitate to seek the proper tooth cavity treatment. An untreated cavity can lead to a root canal or complete loss of the tooth.

Smith Family Dentistry in Wilmington, NC, can provide the cavity treatment needed for a happy and healthy smile along with the preventive measures necessary to keep tooth decay at bay.

Schedule your appointment online or by calling (910) 762-5235 today.