What causes tooth decay
Tooth decay occurs when the natural bacteria in the mouth digest the sugar in our food and produce acid. The acid produced by the bacteria softens and erodes the surface of the teeth, causing decay.
The time taken for these changes to occur varies between individuals and also varies according to the nature of the challenge. The drop in pH usually takes no more than five minutes whereas the recovery for the resting pH can take between fifteen and forty minutes depending on the acid neutralising properties of an individual’s saliva.
How to prevent tooth decay
The best way to prevent tooth decay is to decrease the number, duration and frequency of sugar attacks on the teeth. This can be done in the following ways:
- The use of artificial sugar substitutes
- Restrict sugar to mealtimes
- Have only sugar free snacks
- Drink only water or milk between meals
- Be aware of hidden sugars in foods
- Nothing to eat and only water to drink after brushing at night
- Stimulating saliva by chewing sugar free gum
- Remineralising the tooth surface- brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride can re-harden tooth enamel which has been damaged by acid attack. Brushing also mechanically removes plaque which consists of large colonies of decay-causing bacteria
What are so called “Safe snacks”?
- Complex carbohydrates such as bread, savoury crackers, crisps (avoid sweeter flavours eg prawn cocktail, as these often have sugar added), pasta, unsweetened popcorn.
- Fruit and vegetables (not dried fruit, juices or smoothies). The sugar in fruit is within the fruit cell walls so isn’t as readily available for the bacteria to digest. If the fruit is dried or made into juices or smoothies, these cell walls are broken down and the sugar becomes easily available to the bacteria.
- Milk and dairy products- milk, cheese, unsweetened yogurt (keep fruit yogurts to mealtimes as these contain a lot of sugar)
- Meat, nuts and seeds
Contact us today to find out how best to look after your teeth. As they say…. prevention is better than cure!