Tooth decay: Causes, prevention and treatments

Gum disease and tooth decay

Tooth decay is something we all need to aware of.

It’s a constant battle we fight every day, and with varying results.

One-in-three Australian adults have untreated tooth decay, with one-in-four children suffering the same fate.

An astonishing one person out of every 25 has no natural teeth at all!

What is tooth decay?

To answer that question in the simplest way would be this; tooth decay means holes in your teeth.

How those holes get there is a little more complicated.

Your teeth are covered in a hard, outer shell called enamel. When you eat, bacteria (that are naturally present in your mouth) cling to your teeth. If you don’t brush your teeth, these bacteria multiply and a soft white layer forms on your teeth in the form of plaque. These microscopic bacteria release acids which eat away at the enamel, eventually wearing it away over time.

These bacteria need sugar to survive. Foods with a higher sugar content do more damage to your teeth.

Only by brushing regularly and thoroughly can you keep plaque to a minimum, along with regular trips to your dentist to have it scraped away.

If left, the bacteria will eventually eat a hole in the enamel, and move inside the tooth, causing infection.

If that happens, the tooth may die and need to be extracted, or worse, the infection could spread and result in something a lot more serious.

mother and daughter preventing tooth decay

The most common reasons for tooth decay

Even people who brush twice a day may still suffer from tooth decay. It can be frustrating and a mystery to them why – they looked after their teeth, so why do they need fillings?

The truth is, there are many reasons why tooth decay can happen, and focusing on one prevention may not help in the long run. Here are the three main reasons why tooth decay happens, and how to prevent it.

Poor oral hygiene

Even brushing your teeth every day may not be enough to prevent tooth decay. A full oral hygiene routine which includes flossing, brushing your tongue, and using mouthwash is recommended. Brushing in the morning and again at night is what we’re all used to, but to be thorough, you should also floss. Brushing alone cannot get in-between the teeth like floss can, and so this is a common place for tooth decay to start.

Sugary and acidic food and drink

Sugars are the main culprit when it comes to tooth decay. They are in practically everything we buy at the supermarket, and even in some things we would never expect. Refined sugar is basically rocket fuel for the bacteria in your mouth, and will help it grow exponentially, forming plaque and eventually destroying your teeth if left unchecked.

Acidic food and drink are doubly as not only do they feed the bacteria in your mouth, they also damage your teeth with their own acid, increasing the chances of tooth decay.

Genetic issues

Unfortunately, even eating right and having good oral hygiene can’t guarantee fighting off tooth decay. Genetics also play a part.

Just as you inherit your height, eye colour, and hair type, you can also inherit dental issues, such as deep tooth crevices and weak enamel.

Medical problems such as diabetes can also attribute to tooth decay in various forms. A dry mouth from medication or lack of hydration means there is less salvia, which slows down plaque growth.

Age also plays a factor, with a rise in tooth decay corresponding with a rise in age.

Man having check up for tooth decay

Come see us for a check-up today

Here at SDAI we believe that prevention is better than cure.

Getting rid of that plaque is essential in preventing tooth decay and the problems which follow such as gum disease, rotting teeth, and abscess.

Our oral hygienist will take a good look at your teeth, scrape off any plaque, and show you how to properly brush and floss.

We pride ourselves on customer satisfaction, and make sure your experience with us is relaxed, safe and informed from start to finish.

Contact us today if you would like to make an appointment for a check-up, or if you have any questions about treatment plans or dental procedures. Our friendly and experienced staff will be happy to answer any questions you may have.