Tooth decay is the most common malady in the world. It is caused by the action of bacteria on the food you eat. Bacteria already exist in our mouth and most of them are beneficial but some of them form tightly knit colonies called plaque which is the sticky colorless film that develops constantly on your teeth.
It is an invisible battle because the bacteria are of the same color as your teeth and they hide in those hard-to-reach areas of the mouth like the gum line and between the teeth.
The bacteria in plaque survived by digesting the food, specifically the ones that are broken down into simple sugars; this includes candy and sweets as well as other high carbohydrate foods like pasta, bread, milk, juices and sweetened drinks. In short, plaque bacteria thrive on the sugary foods we love to eat and drink.
When the plaque bacteria digest these sugars, a chemical reaction occurs and the bacteria produce acid. This acid slowly dissolves the minerals in the outer enamel layer of your teeth forming a de-mineralized area that appears as a brown or white spot. Thanks to saliva, commonly known as spit, is full of minerals assist in hardening the affected areas of the teeth by dumping minerals. It balances the effects of the acid, neutralizes the acids, helps wash away bacteria and replaces the minerals that were lost in acid attack. This de-mineralization (acid attack) and re-mineralization (repair) happens every time we consume sugars and acids in our diet.
However, if you eat too often or too many sugary or starchy foods, the saliva can’t keep it up with the bacteria and they reproduce wildly developing or even thicker accumulations of plaque. These accumulations keep saliva away from the tooth surface creating a hole in the enamel layer of your tooth. This hole in the tooth is called a cavity and once decay has gotten through the hard enamel it can grow much more quickly in the softer inner layers of the tooth areas and start rotting the dentine layer under the enamel causing tooth decay. When decay hits the sensitive part, you get a toothache.
You can defy tooth decay by regularly taking action to slow acid production and to remove plaque from your teeth and strengthen the tooth enamel. Here are a few tips and tricks that can help you prevent tooth decay:
- Limit the number of times you eat sugary and starchy foods and drinks in your diet
- Brush after every meals to remove plaque and floss at least once a day to avoid plaque trapped between the teeth
- Use a fluoride toothpaste as fluoride strengthens tooth enamel or use fluoride mouth rinse
- Chewing sugarless gum can also stimulate the production of saliva
- Get a regular dental check-up and cleaning done
Therefore, proper dental hygiene is the very first step in preventing tooth decay. Understanding the process of tooth decay and taking action to prevent will to help keep your teeth healthy for a lifetime.