What is dental decay?

Dental decay affects adults as well as children, and the severity of the disease actually increases with age.

Cavities are permanently damaged areas in the hard surface of your teeth that develop into tiny openings or holes. Cavities are also called tooth decay or caries.

Tooth decay requires exposure to sugar, but also depends on the susceptibility of the tooth, the bacterial profile of the mouth, the quantity and quality of the saliva, and the amount of time the tooth is exposed to sugars.

Cavities and tooth decay are among the world’s most common health problems. They are especially common in children, teenagers and older adults. But anyone who has teeth can get cavities, including infants.

The best way to care for your teeth and gums is to follow good eating habits, brush, and floss daily, and have regular dental cleanings and checkups.

Practice good eating habits

There is overwhelming evidence that sugars are the most important dietary factor in dental disease. Specifically, it is the amount and frequency of free sugars consumed that determine the severity of decay.

Although other fermentable carbohydrates such as bread, crackers, bananas and breakfast cereals may not be totally blameless, studies show that consumption of starchy staple foods and fresh fruit are associated with lower levels of dental caries. Fluoride reduces caries risk, but does not eliminate dental caries completely.

Consuming a variety of foods rich in nutrients and avoiding those that contain sugars and starches are important for keeping teeth and gums healthy.

Sugar and sweets intake should be limited, as the bacteria in the mouth need sugar to produce the acids that weaken enamel and damage teeth. Each time you expose your teeth to sugar the demineralization process begins, and it can take up to an hour for the mouth to return to normal non-acidic PH conditions.

Brush your teeth

Brushing your teeth daily with fluoridated toothpaste is the best method for reducing plaque. The American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) recommends brushing for two minutes, twice daily. Proper brushing technique cleans teeth and gums effectively. To prevent damage to the enamel, only use a soft-bristle toothbrush.

The toothbrush should be placed against the teeth at a 45-degree angle to the gum line. Using back, forth, and small circular motions, all tooth surfaces should be gently brushed, followed by a light brushing of the tongue. Avoid eating for 30 minutes after brushing.

A toothbrush should be replaced at least every three months, as well as after any illness.


Daily flossing is necessary for removing plaque and food particles that your toothbrush cannot reach.

The area just beneath the gum line and the tight spaces between teeth are vulnerable areas where plaque can build up and turn to tartar. If you do not floss regularly, the buildup of plaque and tartar can lead to cavities, as well as gum disease.

Get professional cleanings and dental checkups regularly

Brushing and flossing help get rid of most plaque, but still some plaque is hard to remove and will harden and form tartar.

Only a cleaning by a dental professional can remove tartar. Unremoved plaque and tartar will not only cause decay, but also work its way under the gums and lead to serious gum disease. Eventually, the disease process will become so advanced the only treatment is the extraction of the tooth.

Advanced tooth and gum disease can involve the mouth, as well as other body organs, leading to serious and potentially life-threatening health problems.

Proper care of the teeth and gums requires minimal time commitment. A healthy diet, a consistent oral home hygiene program, and regular professional cleanings and checkups will keep your teeth and gums in excellent shape, and leave you with a beautiful, healthy smile.

Source: Medical News Today 

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