One of the most serious dental health concerns is tooth decay, which occurs in nominal amounts regardless of how often you brush your teeth or visit the dentist. However, you can slow the process of tooth decay by taking care of your teeth, and you first need to understand what causes this condition.
Where does tooth decay occur?
Tooth decay can occur on and in all parts of the tooth, from tops to the gum line to the area below the surface. It can even cause problems inside the tooth, an area called the “pulp”, which can result in painful and dangerous abscesses.
The most common place for tooth decay to occur, according to the Mayo Clinic, is the back teeth: the molars and premolars. These teeth contain more grooves and divots than the front teeth, providing more convenient places for bacteria and plaque to grow.
What foods contribute to tooth decay?
All foods and beverages play a part in causing tooth decay, but some are worse than others. Specifically, carbohydrates create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, resulting in an “acid attack” that begins the process of decay. Sugary drinks and foods, in particular, are dangerous for your mouth.
Of course, you can help stop carbohydrates and other foods from causing tooth decay. Brushing your teeth after every meal, for example, will wash away much of the sugar in your mouth, leaving less of the energy on which bacteria thrives. You can also gargle with a mouthwash, such as Listerine, to help cleanse your mouth.
How do cavities form?
Advanced forms of tooth decay often result in cavities, which occur when plaque and bacteria can reach below the enamel, or surface, of the tooth. The second layer, called “dentin” is much more permeable, and tooth decay quickens once bacteria has access to it.
This is the point at which you might begin to notice pain, discoloration and sensitivity. The pain might worsen when you eat hot or cold foods or eat a food high in citrus. It is even possible for tooth decay to reach the bone, which is an extreme form of decay and can cause severe pain and abscesses.
What other factors contribute to tooth decay?
Tobacco, alcohol and drug use can all play a part in significant tooth decay, as can failing to visit the dentist at least once a year. If you don’t floss your teeth or use an interdental teeth cleaner, bacteria will have access to the areas between your teeth, leading to serious plaque build-up.
The risk factors for tooth decay are complicated, but the important thing is that you take care of your mouth. Brush your teeth twice a day, visit the dentist regularly, and drink fluoridated water. These are the best ways to prevent the explosion of tooth decay and subsequent damage.
Mayo Clinic, Cavities/tooth decay