Tooth decay is caused by bacteria, which live on the surface of the teeth in the form of dental plaque. Certain foods, such as sugars and acids, can speed up tooth decay. Let’s take a look at the process of tooth decay in more detail to understand the factors that contribute to it.
Dental plaque is a soft film that forms on the surfaces of teeth. Plaque is composed of colonies of bacteria, which feed on sugars in the foods you eat and produce waste products that gradually wear through the teeth’s protective enamel coating. Holes in the enamel are known as dental cavities; they need to be filled as soon as possible to prevent the decay spreading through to the root of the tooth. Root decay is often painful and can mean that the tooth needs to be removed.
You can remove dental plaque by brushing your teeth thoroughly every day. However, plaque that is left in place hardens into tartar, which is harder to remove. Visit your dentist to have the tartar removed professionally in order to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
Diet can play an important role in tooth decay. Acids can dissolve the enamel that protects the teeth and speed up the process of decay. Citrus fruits and tomatoes are quite acidic, but the most dangerous dietary sources of acid are soft drinks such as colas, which contain high levels of phosphoric and citric acids.
The bacteria that are the root cause of tooth decay consume sugar. Every time you eat sweets or drink sugary beverages you feed the bacteria that live in your mouth, which is why dentists recommend that you limit your consumption of these sugars. However, it is not only refined glucose that you need to consider: oral bacteria can also feed on fruit sugars, lactose in dairy products, and more complex carbohydrates which are broken down to simple sugars by enzymes in saliva. If you do eat something sugary or high in carbohydrates, clean your teeth soon afterwards to brush away the bacteria.
Cleaning your teeth regularly with fluoride toothpaste can help to fight against the root cause of tooth decay: the bacteria in your mouth. Because it is very difficult to completely eradicate dental plaque, you should also see your dentist regularly so that cavities can be filled and stubborn tartar removed.