What causes tooth decay? You guessed it -- bacterial plaque. It is the primary cause of tooth decay. If you eat sugary foods, and plaque is present in your mouth, a reaction occurs. The sugar and the bacteria in the plaque combine and form acids. Acids can form very quickly, sometimes within minutes after eating. Then these acids are held against the tooth surfaces by the sticky plaque. The acids penetrate and a cavity is formed.
A simple formula to remember is:
SUGAR + BACTERIA (PLAQUE) = ACID
ACID + TOOTH = DECAY
How to Prevent Decay
Here are some important factors in preventing tooth decay:
Plaque removal: Brushing and flossing after meals is important to keep the bacteria under control.
Daily diet and general nutrition: Foods containing sugar should be limited and are better eaten with a meal.
Fluorides: Using fluorides is one of the most effective ways to control decay. Fluorides make tooth enamel more resistant to the decay action of acids, and it benefits both children and adults. For adults, fluoride can strengthen and desensitize the root surfaces with regular application.
Sealants: Sealants are protective plastic shields that are placed on the biting surfaces of children's permanent teeth. Eighty-six percent of tooth decay in children occurs on the biting surfaces. Sealants should be applied soon after teeth appear since teeth are most vulnerable in the first two to three years.
Periodic checkups: Regular visits to your dentist or hygienist provide the best opportunity to catch problems while they are small and correct them before they become big.
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