Why Do I Get Tooth Decay And What Causes It?

Cavities, holes, tooth rot and decay are all terms used to describe one of the most common health issues affecting people of all ages around the world. Dental Caries. Quite often you can’t see it, feel it or even know it is there, until the problems are more serious. That’s where the most loved, charismatic and popular people in the world come in… Dentists. We can help identify and fix problems, but most importantly, with the help of Oral Health Therapists and Hygienists, we can educate and motivate you towards preventing future damage.

Prevention is better than cure. Plain and simple.

What exactly is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is a bacterial disease. Bacteria clump together to form sticky plaque and certain types can be very damaging to teeth. Bacteria live off the sugar and carbs we eat and they produce acid as a result. This acid is powerful enough to rot and dissolve the hardest substance in the human body. Your teeth.

This can start in between teeth where you can’t even see it, and if it progresses undetected, will cause significant damage. If it gets too deep it can infect the nerve which leads to extreme pain and infection which can be more difficult and expensive to fix. Or you need to have the tooth extracted.

If you remove the bacteria and reduce their preferred food source then Ta-da! You reduce your chances of getting tooth decay.

Why is preventing tooth decay important?

It’s pretty simple. Dental decay…

  • Can be Painful
  • Is expensive to fix
  • Results in infection and illness
  • Causes teeth to be lost.
  • Can contribute to discoloured teeth and bad breath

For decades, we have also established links between dental problems and other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. So, your entire body benefits from a healthy mouth.

Baby teeth matter just as much as adult teeth. If you give your kids a great start to their dental life, then they are far more likely to have great teeth as an adult.

As dentists, we hear patients express their frustration when they have extensive dental problems.

“I wish I had cared for my teeth when I was younger.”

This is a common complaint. But no matter how old you are, or what the state of your teeth, you can take some simple steps towards a healthier mouth.

At the centre of it all, it comes down to a few key concepts that you probably already know, but may just need some motivation to practise them regularly.

  1. Clean your teeth thoroughly and regularly – brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and ideally floss daily. Yes, we all know flossing is one of the people’s LEAST favourite things! Get your dental professional to show you how.
  2. Reduce sugar intake – DON’T FEED THE BEAST!
  3. Reduce acidic drinks – the more acidic your mouth is, the more decay you will get
  4. Stay well hydrated with plain water – this will ensure healthy saliva which is our mouths BEST natural defence.

But I brush my teeth and STILL get tooth decay!

This is of great frustration to both patients and dentists. This is where professional advice and assessment can be very important. It is very rare that you “inherit” bad teeth, so it is critical not to lose hope or feel that things are out of your control.

“Just pull them all out and give me false teeth” is something we commonly hear and it is an understandable response to having years or even decades of ongoing dental issues.

Issues such as dry mouth (often caused by taking prescription medication ) is a most serious issue that can result in significant dental problems.

Stomach reflux is another health issue that is very damaging to teeth.

In both of these situations, preventing tooth damage is possible, but does take extra efforts and the use of additional or more specialised preventive products. These can include chewing sugar-free gum, using kinds of toothpaste with higher levels of fluoride, or other novel ingredients.

How you care for your teeth every day at home if far more important to how your dentist cares for your teeth once or twice a year.

Getting good advice from your dental professional and getting into good habits is the key to better teeth for life.


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