Understanding Why Your Teeth Decay is a Step Towards Prevention

| 7 min read

When it comes to dental issues common and preventable are a good combination.

Such would apply to tooth decay.

Being a common dental issue it's important to understand why teeth decay.

As a significant public health concern, tooth decay (also known as dental caries or cavities) has specific causes and effects in addition to solutions.

Why your teeth decay

As with many dental issues, oral bacteria are to blame. The acid producing bacteria gradually erode the protective enamel layer on the surface of your teeth.

Though bacteria are ever present in your mouth, there are factors that give them leverage leading to decay.Tooth Decay

Poor oral hygiene

Brushing or flossing that's inconsistent or inadequate opens the door to bacterial growth.

The sticky bacterial film known as plaque accumulates on your tooth surfaces. Acid production increases due to bacteria and erodes your tooth enamel.

Diet and lifestyle

Eating foods high in sugar or starch helps fuel bacteria in their attack on your enamel. The longer your teeth are exposed to sugar and the acid produced by bacteria the more susceptible your teeth become to decay.

Dry mouth condition

Your saliva has a major role in helping neutralize the acids produced by oral bacteria. Dry mouth (xerstomia) reduces your saliva production making your teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay.

Genetic factors

Your genes can have an influence on your oral health. Some family of origin issues can predispose you to dental health conditions such as decay.

Medical conditions

Acid reflux and eating disorders are among the medical conditions that can increase your decay risk. The impact of acid on your tooth enamel accelerates the process.

The effects of tooth decay

Untreated tooth decay creates complications and related dental problems. Awareness of these specific issues can help prevent them from worsening.


Enamel erosion allows holes or pits to develop in your teeth. Bacteria penetrate deeper into your tooth structure and create a cavity.

Sensitive teeth

Dentin is the tooth layer beneath your surface enamel. As erosion occurs the dentin becomes more exposed causing your teeth to be sensitive to hot, cold, sweets, or foods and beverages high in acid content.

A toothache

As tooth decay advances your tooth and/or your gum tissue can become inflamed or infected. A toothache is the discomfort you feel as a result of the inflammation or infection.

An abscess

Bacteria that remain on your teeth can form pockets of infection around a tooth and down into its root. Swelling, pain, and the potential for other systemic (general health) conditions can result if you fail to treat decay.

Tooth loss

A severe and untreated case of tooth decay could cause you to lose a tooth or teeth. When decay has progressed to this point and the tooth is irreversibly damaged, an extraction could be necessary.

Solutions for treating, reversing, and preventing tooth decay

Effective daily oral hygiene

You would expect to hear that brushing your teeth a minimum of two times per day, flossing, and rinsing your mouth are fundamental for decay prevention. The removal of plaque and bacterial build-up are the ultimate benefit of these oral hygiene basics.

Monitor your diet

Limiting the amount of sugar and high acidic foods and beverages will help protect your vital tooth enamel.

Balance is key here. Opt for foods with a reputation for high nutritional value.

Fluoride treatment

Fluoride is known to strengthen your tooth enamel. It also promotes remineralization that helps make your teeth more resistant to acid.

Fluoride can be applied as varnish during a dental visit, such as a teeth cleaning appointment. And a toothpaste with added fluoride are another way to supplement fluoride.

Dental sealants

The thin, protective coating applied to the chewing surfaces of your teeth (molars and premolars specifically) helps prevent the accumulation of bacteria in the otherwise vulnerable grooves of your teeth.

Regular dental visits

Routine dental check-ups allow your dentist to detect and diagnose any early stage decay or cavities.

A professional teeth cleaning by a dental hygienist is also recommended to prevent plaque and tartar build-up from progressing into tooth decay.

Though common, tooth decay can be prevented. Being aware of the causes, the damaging effects, and preventive solutions can decrease your risk of decay.

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Stay consistent with your dental care and avoid decay related oral health issues

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