You may have heard of the term dental decay, or perhaps your dentist or friend has told you about their experience of ‘cavities’, ‘dental caries’ or just ‘holes’.
All of these names mean the same thing – dental decay is the most common disease in the world. The cause of holes in your teeth is bacteria that live on your teeth and feed on sugars that you eat and drink. When the bacteria are regularly feeding (as in someone who snacks on sugary foods at regular intervals) then they make an acid that breaks the tooth down.
Eventually, the bacterial acid weakens the tooth so much that it cracks and forms a hole. If this hole, or dental caries, is not restored (or filled) by the dentist, then it will grow bigger until it reaches your nerve, which is often the source of very extreme toothache.
The key to preventing dental decay is consuming refined sugars in moderation, and maintaining good oral hygiene so that the level of bacteria in the mouth are low. Our diet is such an important factor in dental disease, and is also so important for our general health.
Here are some top tips to prevent dental decay:
- Reduce your frequency of sugar attacks during the day – choose healthy low-sugar snacks
- Be careful of hidden sugars found in ketchup, salad dressings and some alcoholic beverages
- Chewing sugar-free gum after a sugar attack helps to increase your saliva flow, which helps to neutralize (or balance out) the acids formed by the plaque
- If you have a sweet drink, have it through a straw so it bypasses your teeth altogether.
- Fill out the diet diary on FoodForTeeth and speak to your Dentist about identifying sources of sugar and acid in your diet which may not be obvious
- If you have a dry mouth, you are more likely to get decay. If you experience dry mouth regularly, you should speak to your Dentist
- Brush your teeth twice daily (including last thing at night) and clean in between your teeth with interdental brushes, or floss for tight contacts
- Ensure that your toothpaste has at least 1,450ppm Sodium Fluoride. Do not buy ‘Fluoride-free toothpaste’
- If you are high risk for dental decay, your Dentist may apply Fluoride varnish to your teeth, as well as prescribing toothpaste with higher fluoride content (prescription-only)
- After you brush your teeth, do not rinse out with water. Instead, allow a thin film of toothpaste to coat your teeth, and spit out the excess.