Top 10 Causes of Tooth Decay

What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay, also known as a cavity, or cavities, occurs when bacteria living in your mouth make acid that then begins to eat away at your teeth. Untreated tooth decay may cause infection, extreme pain and the loss of tooth. The decay process begins with the unnoticeable damage to the enamel of your teeth and then steadily progresses to deeper layers of the tooth, eventually leading to the pulp. The pulp of your teeth contains highly-sensitive blood vessels and nerves.

The top 10 causes of tooth decay include:

Poor Oral Hygiene Practices: Poor oral hygiene not only includes brushing your teeth regularly, but not flossing regularly, not brushing your tongue, and not using mouth wash. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day – morning and night, but it is ideal to brush after every meal. And remember to brush for at least two minutes. Set a little timer for yourself while you’re brushing to ensure that you brush your teeth for the full two minutes. Improper oral hygiene will ultimately lead to tooth decay. Tooth decay due to poor oral hygiene is avoidable.

Deep Tooth Crevices and Enamel Issues: Individuals with enamel issues and who have deep crevices in their teeth are highly-likely to have problems with tooth decay. This is because the deep crevices allow bacteria and plaque easy access to grow. Dental sealants are typically used to prevent tooth decay in patients with deep tooth crevices. A dental sealant is only safe for uninfected teeth for the prevention of tooth decay.

Improper Nutrition: Avoiding foods that are high in sugar, high in carbohydrates and high in acid is the best way to avoid tooth decay due to improper nutrition. Eating a healthy diet, which includes healthy foods and the avoidance of sugary acidic drinks is the way to go.

Sugary Foods: Sugary foods are the best friends of the bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria in your mouth literally feed off of sugary foods, and then begin to coat your teeth in damaging acid. This can all happen in a matter of seconds and can occur several times over the course of just one meal, which is why it’s recommended to brush your teeth after each meal to eliminate acid. When thinking of sugary foods, you more than likely think of “candy” and things like that, when in fact, there are many foods that contain “hidden sugars.” So be careful and always be on the lookout for hidden sugars. Remember, sugary drinks such as juice are just as damaging to your teeth as soda.

Acidic Foods and Drinks: When most people think of “acidic” they more than likely think of “soda,” when in fact many common foods which people consume on a daily basis contain acid. Shockingly, even foods such as fish and bread contain acid. Of course, carbonated beverages such as soda, as well as fruit juice are all acidic agents which cause tooth decay. Unlike the way that bacteria feed off of sugary foods so they can coat the teeth in acid, acidic foods and drinks immediately begin to damage tooth enamel with their own acid.

Dry Mouth Issues: Due to the fact that saliva helps inhibit the growth of plaque, persons with dry mouth conditions will more than likely have dental issues which lead to tooth decay. Dry mouth may be caused by prescription medications, it may be genetic, or it may be caused by medical conditions such as Diabetes. A vigilant dentist will work closely with a patient to prevent tooth decay or further tooth decay due to dry mouth issues.

Tooth Grinding: Many people grind their teeth and do not even realize that they do this. Tooth grinding typically occurs when persons are asleep or when they’re under immense stress. Tooth grinding leads to tooth decay due to the fact that it strips away the outer layer of tooth enamel. Tooth grinding is preventable with the use of a “bite guard,” also known as a “night guard,” and with the reduction of stress.

Genetics: Often times, many people have issues with tooth decay thanks to genetics. Just as you inherit the color of your eyes and hair from your family, you also inherit deep tooth crevices and enamel issues, which lead to cavities.

Age: There are many reasons that cavities become more common with age, but some include common prescription medications which cause dry mouth, the recession of gums with age, and improper oral hygiene finally catching up with age.

An Apple A Day Won’t Keep The Dentist Away

Avoiding the Dentist: Lastly, avoiding a visit to the dentist is not good for your teeth and will ultimately lead to future tooth decay. If you’re afraid of the dentist, don’t be. The dentist is here to help you. Ideally, you should visit the dentist every six months for routine cleaning and an examination. During the examination at the dentist, your dentist will examine your mouth for any signs of tooth decay. If signs of tooth decay exist, your dentist will work quickly to treat the issues, as well as providing any preventive measures to avoid future tooth decay all together.

Dr. Gershberg is the owner of The Art of Dentistry which is located in Bryn Mawr, PA. He provides services such as cosmetic dentistry, general dentistry, implants, veneers, root canals, crowns, and braces. Dr. Gershberg is a clinical professor at Albert Einstein Medical Center. Check out our the Art of Dentistry by Dr. Stephen J. Gershberg Google+ page for all the latest posts By Stephen Gershberg.

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