Tooth cavities are the result of a disease process that damages your teeth. Unfortunately, it is a common problem and can occur at any age.
Dental plaque refers to a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. When you eat or drink foods containing sugars (even “healthy” sugars), the bacteria in plaque eat the sugars and produce acids that break down tooth structure. In the beginning stages of tooth decay, minerals that dissolve from the tooth can be replaced by fluoride ions – this is why fluoride products are so effective in preventing cavities.
As the decay progresses, the tooth continues to lose minerals until a small hole forms in the tooth. Once a physical hole forms in the tooth, the disease process is no longer reversible and the cavity will progressively grow larger until it is treated.
Cavities are more common among children, but changes that occur with aging make cavities an adult problem too. Recession of the gums away from the teeth exposes tooth roots to plaque. Tooth roots are softer, less mineralized surfaces as they not covered with dental enamel. They are therefore especially susceptible to decay and are more sensitive to touch and to hot and cold.
Decay around the edges of fillings is also common for adults. Over the years, the “seal” around the edges of the fillings may break down allowing bacteria and acid to accumulate in these tiny crevices, which can lead to decay.
You can help prevent tooth decay by following these tips:
- Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Clean between your teeth daily with floss.
- Brush after all meals if you have a high risk of decay.
- Eat nutritious and balanced meals.
- Avoid high sugar food and drinks.
- Avoid acidic drinks like soda and energy drinks.
- Have defined meal times, limit snacking.
- Check with your dentist about the use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth,
- Ask your dentist about the use of dental sealants
- Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examination.