Firstly, what is tooth decay? Decay, also known as caries, forms from the acids in your mouth, from day to day food and juices, creating the outer layers of your tooth to dissolve, then eventually creating a cavity.
Research has shown that decay has gradually decreased over the last few decades, but still is a widespread problem in the UK. It’s estimated that around one in every 3 adults has tooth decay, and is found in children at as young at 5 years of age, and in some cases even younger.
Why do we get decay?
Naturally, our mouths are full of bacteria, combined with food particles and saliva, which then forms a substance called plaque. Plaque is a clear sticky film which lays over your teeth, which is natural, everybody creates it. If the plaque is not thoroughly removed with regular cleaning, the acid from the foods and drinks you intake, react with the plaque and eventually start eating away at your teeth.
Some foods are more harmful to your teeth than others, such as sugary foods like cakes and biscuits, as they contain more sugar then other natural foods, like fruit and vegetables. Although other foods which don’t taste as sweet can be just as harmful, like chips, bread and pasta. These types of foods are high in carbohydrates, from the flour used when making them. Starchy foods do eventually break down to sugar in your mouth, and have the same effect as sweet foods. So even when avoiding a dessert and going for cheese and crackers, your teeth are still at risk!
Dairy foods, like cheese and milk, we are told to be good for your bones and teeth, as they contain calcium, phosphates and vitamin D, so yes this is true. They are an important mineral to your teeth, to help keep them strong and healthy. Your teeth are mainly made from calcium, so without enough in your diet; once again you are at risk of developing tooth decay.
Fruit juices and energy drinks are full of hidden sugars, so if you have a regular intake of these, such as sports players, its best advised to use a straw when drinking, to avoid the juice from having too much contact to the teeth.
Citrus fruit has a tendency to cause erosion on your teeth, such as lemons and limes. Yes it’s ok to eat these foods, but it is advised not to suck on them or have them in your mouth for too long, as they will start to cause damage. Also things like sauces, soups and pizza are high in sugar, honey, pickles and wine, they can all be damaging if consumed too often, and kept in your mouth for too long.
You may be thinking a lot of the foods mentioned above and foods you eat on a day to day basis, well this is probably the case for most people. This is why we have come up with ways to still enjoy the foods you love, with taking care and precautions while doing so. As previously mentioned, a straw when drinking certain types of drinks can cut the risk of creating decay and erosion.
Also another tip is to chew sugar free chewing gum after eating meals, as the gum contains a mineral called xylitol. Xylitol has proven to have decay prevention qualities. But please make sure the gum is sugar free, as if not it can create a more acidic environment in your mouth.
Some teas have prevention qualities in them, for example green and black teas contain compounds in them which interact with the plaque in your mouth to either kill or reduce the bacteria, then preventing them from eventually growing and producing an ‘acid attack’. Not only does tea reduce bacteria, but also lowers the chance of gum disease, by reducing inflammation of your gums. But remember, try not to add sugar to your tea, and by using fluoride water with your tea always benefits your teeth.
We all deserve a treat now and again, and a bag of sweets does always go down well! I’ve noticed that a lot of people think that if they eat a few sweets here and there throughout the day, rather than being ‘greedy’ and eating them all at once, it will prevent the amount of acid intake. Well surprisingly this is not the case. When you’re eating a pack of sweets, if you’re going to finish them, then it’s best to eat them all at once. May sound a little strange, but the reason for this is, your mouth has a PH level, and every time you eat something, the PH level rises to become more acidic, which is when your mouth is at the most risk of causing decay. It takes around 20 to 30 minutes to fully go back to a neutral. So if you are eating sweets every half an hour or every hour, your mouth is going to be acidic throughout the day and won’t have a chance to neutralise. So in future when treating yourself, go ahead and eat them all at once, as it’s for your teeth’s best interest.
As well as knowing what foods are good and not so good for your teeth, of course the most important thing for preventing dental decay is good oral hygiene. This includes brushing at least twice a day for at least two minutes, in the morning and before you go to sleep using a fluoride toothpaste, using dental aids, such as floss and interdental sticks to clean in-between your teeth, and visiting the dental hygienist. Also try avoiding rinsing your mouth with water straight after you have brushed your teeth, as this will rinse away the protective layer placed on your teeth from the toothpaste. If these tips are carried out regularly and properly, you will reduce your risk of dental decay, as remember, the less plaque you have in your mouth, the less chance you have of it eating away at your teeth.
Here at Perfect Smile Spa in Hornchurch Essex, we are a friendly and experienced team, who place many white fillings for teeth that unfortunately have decay. Also we have a great service on preventing tooth decay by regular check-ups and hygiene visits. As well as white fillings, we also place porcelain inlays/onlays, bridges, crowns veneers and implants. So no matter what the circumstance, something can always be done to give you a perfect smile. For more information please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us, for a free consultation on any questions you may have. We hope to hear from you soon.
This post is by Dr Jas Sagoo who is the principle dentist at Perfect Smile Spa in Essex.How to Prevent Tooth Decay was last modified: July 2nd, 2018 by Dr Jas Sagoo