How Does Tooth Decay Happen?
Tooth decay occurs when plaque, which is the colorless sticky substance that forms on teeth after eating, is not brushed or flossed away. The bacteria in plaque use the sugars and carbohydrates in the food we eat to form harmful acids that destroy tooth enamel and other tooth structure.
This is why it is important to brush after every meal and to floss once a day to remove the harmful plaque. Left on teeth long enough, the enamel is destroyed and a hole or cavity in the tooth forms. If cavities aren’t detected and treated early enough, they can lead to more serious problems requiring treatments such a root canal.
The best defense against cavities is good oral hygiene, including brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing and rinsing. Your body’s own saliva is also an excellent cavity fighter, because it contains special chemicals that rinse away many harmful materials. Also helpful in avoiding tooth decay, is a diet low in sugery or sticky foods and one that limits the number snacks per day.
Special sealants and flouride varnishes can also be applied to the teeth as a preventive measure to stave off cavities.
If you have any of the following symptoms, you may have a cavity:
- Unusual sensitivity to hot, cold or sweets.
- A localized pain in your tooth or near the gum line.
- Teeth that change color.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby bottle tooth decay is caused by the sugary substances in breast milk and most juices, which if allowed to stay on the teeth for long periods of time, will form the acids which destroy tooth enamel. Never allow your baby to nurse on a bottle filled with anything except water when going to sleep. Encouraging your toddler to drink from a cup as early as possible will also help prevent baby bottle decay.
If allowed to occur, baby bottle decay can lead to premature destruction of your baby’s primary teeth, which can then later affect the proper eruption of their permanent teeth.