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What Is Tooth Decay & How Can You Prevent It?

Tooth enamel is a hard white pearly substance on the outermost layer of a tooth.  Tooth decay develops when there is damage to the enamel.  Tooth decay is a disease that can affect both children and adults.  If left untreated, tooth decay may lead to pain, infection and even tooth loss. Below is important information on the causes of and ways to prevent tooth decay.

Causes of tooth decay

Tooth plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on your teeth. When you eat or drink sugary foods, the bacteria in plaque produce harmful acids which attack your tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth and over time the enamel breaks down leading to tooth decay or cavities. Although cavities in children are more common, changes that occur with aging such as gum recession and the breakdown of older fillings may also lead to decay.

Symptoms of tooth decay

Symptoms differ depending on the stage of tooth deterioration. At the earliest stage, tooth decay is asymptomatic.  As tooth decay progresses, symptoms can range from mild tooth sensitivity to sharp spontaneous pain without any apparent cause.  Patients may also experience pain or sensitivity after eating something sweet, hot, or cold.

How to prevent tooth decay

Practicing healthy dental habits on a regular basis will greatly reduce the chances of tooth decay. The following tips are not only important for you to teach your children, but to follow as well.

Using toothpaste with fluoride 

Proper oral hygiene means brushing at least twice a day for 2 minutes using toothpaste which contains fluoride.   The act of brushing your teeth aids in the mechanical removal of food debris and plaque.  The fluoride in the toothpaste acts an important buffer to reduce the acidity of the saliva and to re-mineralize the surface enamel.  Flossing between your teeth every day is also important to remove any food or plaque left between the teeth that the toothbrush cannot reach. 

Regular dental check

In the early stages of tooth decay, you may not have any symptoms. Therefore, regular dental visits and professional cleanings are also necessary.  At your regularly scheduled visits, your dentist will be able to detect early signs of tooth decay and in order to prevent possible complications down the road.

Avoid frequent sipping and snacking.

Consuming sugary beverages and sticky snacks significantly increases your risk for cavities and tooth decay. Sugar supplies the bacteria in your mouth with materials to create harmful acids which will eventually cause decay.  If you do have a sugary snack, it’s a good idea to brush your teeth afterward to reduce the risk of decay.

Use sealants

Sealants are thin, protective coatings made from plastic or other dental materials that adhere to the chewing surface of your back teeth. They can help keep cavities from forming and may even stop early stages of decay, although they are not substitutes for proper brushing and flossing.

Drink water containing fluoride

Whether consuming tap or bottled water, tooth decay is effectively prevented if your water includes a considerable measure of fluoride. Most public water sources contain a substantial amount of fluoride which you can easily test with a kit from your dentist. So don’t forget to drink your water! 

Visit Lindner Dental in Bedford, NH

The dentists and staff at Lindner Dental Associates have been dedicated to providing high-quality dental services to patients of all ages, from infants to seniors, since 1985. Our unique practice encompasses pediatric, orthodontic, and family dental care, as well as oral surgery, in a state-of-the-art facility. We strive to provide a comfortable atmosphere for all patients to alleviate any anxiety related to dental care. For more information about tooth decay as well as other dental issues you may be experiencing contact us today at 603-624-3900 or