What Causes Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is one of the most common health problems in the world. It is prevalent in children, teenagers, and older adults. A recent study found that around 2.3 billion people worldwide suffer from tooth decay of their permanent teeth.
Anyone who has teeth can be a victim of tooth decay, including infants. If you don't treat tooth decay, it can affect the deeper layers of your teeth and destroy them. Let's understand the causes behind tooth decay and learn steps that can be taken to prevent it.
What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is the process where the tooth enamel softens. In simple words, it is the damage to the tooth's structure caused by acids that are formed when bacteria break down starches and sugars in the mouth, leading to mineral loss. If you do not treat this loss of mineral from the enamel in a timely manner, cavities or caries (holes in the tooth) can eventually develop. These holes can get deeper over time and may even damage your entire tooth if not treated.
Causes of Tooth Decay
The leading cause of tooth decay is the presence of bacteria in our mouths. Some bacteria are helpful, but the harmful ones play a significant role in tooth decay. They combine with food to form a sticky and soft film over the teeth called plaque. The bacteria present in the plaque make acids using the sugar and starch present in whatever you eat or drink. These acids start to eat at the minerals on your tooth enamel and create holes. With time, plaque can also harden into tartar which, besides damaging your teeth, can also irritate your gums and lead to gum disease.
Fluoride, which can be found in toothpaste and water, along with your saliva, helps the tooth enamel repair itself. Your teeth undergo a natural process of losing and then regaining minerals all day long. However, if you don't take care of your teeth and consume many sugary or starchy foods, your tooth enamel will keep losing minerals, leading to tooth decay.
You may witness white spots developing where minerals are lost. This is an early sign of tooth decay. At this point, you can reverse or prevent further decay by limiting your sugary and starchy food intake. If you don't, your tooth decay process will continue, and you will lose more minerals. Over time, your cavities will get deeper, and a dentist might need to repair your tooth with a filling.
How to Prevent Tooth Decay
Ensure that you get enough fluoride either by brushing with fluoride toothpaste or drinking tap water with fluoride since most bottled water does not contain fluoride. It would help if you also made it a habit to brush your teeth twice a day and floss regularly. Start making smart food choices by limiting foods and drinks that are high in sugars and starches. You should also avoid using tobacco products and see a dentist regularly for check-ups.
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