Tooth decay (also known as cavities or caries) is an oral disease that affects the vast majority of people, both children and adults, during their lifetimes. Luckily, it’s highly preventable!
What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay is the destruction of the enamel of your teeth. The enamel is the hard outer shell of your teeth that is there to protect the more sensitive inner layers.
Tooth decay is an oral disease that we all have to contend with on a daily basis. But it’s highly preventable with the right habits and tools!
Where does tooth decay come from?
It may not be pleasant to think about, but your mouth is full of naturally-occurring bacteria. These bacteria feed off of food residue left in your mouth by sugary or starchy food, and create acid plaque.
Teeth have 3 layers:
- The hard outer enamel shell
- The dentin, the softer middle layer
- The pulp at the centre, which houses the nerves and blood vessels.
The acid plaque eats away at your tooth enamel, and this is the process by which cavities form. The cavity will eventually reach your dentin, and in some cases even the pulp; and of course, the more layers affected by decay, the worse the damaged will be.
How can I help my child avoid dental decay?
There are a variety of things you can do that, in combination, will help your child avoid decay and cavities and maintain his or her oral health in the long term:
- Establish good oral hygiene habits early on in life; this includes twice daily brushing and once daily flossing, and visiting the dentist at least twice a year for a cleaning and checkup.
- Provide a variety of wholesome, nutritionally dense foods that are mostly low in sugar and carbohydrates, as these tend to result in cavities.
- Buy fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash. Fluoride prevents tooth decay by making teeth more resistant to acid plaque. It’s often added to public water supplies, however, so be sure to discuss any additional fluoride with your child’s dentist first, because too much fluoride can cause problems as well.
- Make sure your child stays well hydrated throughout the day. Being well hydrated improves saliva production, and saliva helps wash away bacteria, and food particles that would otherwise cling to the teeth.