Dental Health: Tooth Decay Prevention
Tooth decay is the destruction of tooth structure and can affect both the
enamel (the outer coating of the tooth) and the dentin layer of the tooth.
Tooth decay occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches)
such as breads, cereals, milk, soda, fruits, cakes, or candy are left on the
teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth digest these foods, turning them into
acids. The bacteria, acid, food debris, and saliva combine to form plaque,
which clings to the teeth. The acids in plaque dissolve the enamel surface of
the teeth, creating holes in the teeth called cavities, or caries.
To prevent tooth decay:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste. Preferably, brush after each meal and especially before going to bed.
- Clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners, such as the Oral-B Interdental Brush, Reach Stim-U-Dent, or Sulcabrush.
- Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacks. Avoid carbohydrates such as candy, pretzels and chips, which can remain on the tooth surface. If sticky foods are eaten, brush your teeth afterwards.
- Check with your dentist about use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth.
- Ask your dentist about dental sealants (a plastic protective coating) applied to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth (molars) to protect them from decay.
- Drink fluoridated water. At least a pint of fluoridated water each day is needed to protect children from tooth decay.
- Visit your dentist regularly for professional
cleanings and oral examination.