Dental Decay

What is tooth decay?

Each time you eat and drink sugars (including those in fruit) and starches, bacteria within the plaque on tooth surfaces feed on them and produce acids which attack the enamel of your teeth and cause toothe decay. These attacks can last for an hour after eating and drinking.

Your mouth is protected by saliva and by cleaning your teeth, but if you snack frequently, have lots of bacteria or your mouth is dry, then your teeth are more at risk of tooth decay.

Why does it matter?

If you get tooth decay and it is left untreated, it can worsen the appearance of your teeth, cause holes (cavities) in your teeth, toothache and eventually tooth loss. However, tooth decay is a lifestyle-related behavioural disease, preventable by you. Your dentist can advise you how to avoid it.

What preventive actions can I take?

VISIT THE DENTIST

Your aim in visiting your dental practice should be to prevent disease from occuring. You dentist and their professional team can, based on your current, updated personal risk and disease profile, advise you how best to achieve this.

In the early stages of tooth decay, you will not experience any symptoms. Yet this is when the disease is most easily managed or prevented from progressing. Regular visits to your dentist (and/or members of their team) appropriate to your level of risk can prevent more complex and expensive dental treatment being needed.

PREVENTION – HOME CARE
Dental treatment alone cannot keep you healthy. Your own oral healthcare behaviour is the key to successful prevention of decay. The single most important way of protecting your teeth is to brush twice a day (2 mins each time) with a fluoride toothpaste and to clean between your teeth with special interdental brushes or floss where possible. Electric toothbrushes, used correctly, have been show to be more effective at removing plaque than manual ones. Your dental professional can show you the most effective ways of looking after your teeth. Dental treatment alone cannot keep you healthy. Your own oral healthcare behaviour is the key to successful prevention of decay. The single most important way of protecting your teeth is to brush twice a day (2 mins each time) with a fluoride toothpaste and to clean between your teeth with special interdental brushes or floss where possible. Electric toothbrushes, used correctly, have been show to be more effective at removing plaque than manual ones. Your dental professional can show you the most effective ways of looking after your teeth.

REDUCING SNACKING BETWEEN MEALS
The more frequently you have sugary food and drinks, the more frequent the acid attacks on the enamel of your teeth. These acid attacks cause tooth decay. Try to avoid snacking between meals and limit sugary foods to mealtimes.

DRY MOUTH
Saliva is very important as it provides you with protection agains tooth decay amongst other things. It washes away acids and helps replace lost minerals in your teeth. If you do not produce enough saliva, you will have a greater risk of getting tooth decay. Some things that cause dry mouth are smoking, caffeine and certain medicines. Nearly 1 in 5 of the UK population is affected. Your dental care professional will discuss options with you for dealing with this.

What factors increase my risk?

  • A patient’s recent experience of tooth decay has been shown to be the most powerful predictor of future disease.
  • A large number of existing fillings indicates a potential need for future restorations.
  • The build up of decay-causing plaque (bacteria) on your teeth.
  • Frequent sugar consumption, particularly between meals, increases the acid attacks on your teeth.
  • Having a dry mouth, as saliva protects against tooth decay.
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