Tooth Decay – what you need to know and how to prevent it…

7 May 2021

What is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay, also known as dental caries, is the breakdown of tooth structure caused by plaque. Plaque is a sticky layer of bacteria that coats the surface of the teeth. The bacteria digest the sugar that we eat and produce acid, and this acid dissolves the hard tissues of the teeth (enamel, dentine and cementum). This can cause a small hole (tooth cavity) to develop, which can cause symptoms such as pain and difficulty with eating. Please don’t suffer with tooth pain, the team at St.James Dental are here to help.


How Common is Tooth Decay?

Although we have seen rates of tooth decay fall rapidly over the past 30 years, there are still children as young as five years old who have an average of 1-2 teeth with decay. Things have improved with oral health in general, however, tooth decay is still considered a national health crisis for children. It remains the most common reason for hospital admission in children to date.
The majority of adults (65%) have exposed and vulnerable roots putting them at very high risk of developing tooth decay. As this form of decay is difficult to treat, it can often lead to tooth loss.


Risk Factors

Diet – the sugars in food are the main source of energy for the bacteria found in the mouth. Sugar encourages the bacteria to multiply, thrive, and form greater colonies known as plaque. (See next month’s blog about sugar and its effects). It is important to try and limit sugar intake to mealtimes only and to consider all sweets as treats.

Saliva – saliva is useful as it has natural protective properties that help to neutralise the acids produced by the bacteria. Drinking plenty of water can help with saliva production, as well as providing other major health benefits. There are certain medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus and Sjogren’s syndrome, as well as certain medications, which reduce the flow of saliva and allow the bacterial acid to cause more damage. If you are concerned about dry mouth, please speak to your dentist or hygienist who will be happy to help.

Fluoride – this can help prevent tooth decay and is found in toothpaste, mouthwash, and other dental products, as well as being added to the water supply in some areas of the country. Fluoride hardens the structure of the teeth, making them more resistant to acid attack. Brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste is one of the most effective ways to prevent tooth decay.

Oral Hygiene – it is important to brush your teeth twice a day for 2-3 minutes. Use as little water as possible whilst brushing and spit out afterwards but do not rinse with water or mouthwash, as this washes away the fluoride in the toothpaste. Mouthwash should be used between mealtimes or to freshen your breath between brushes.

Top Tips to Help Prevent Tooth Decay

  • Avoid eating lots of sugary foods and drinking sugar laden drinks.
  • Cut down on snacks in between meals as this gives your teeth a chance to recover from acid attacks.
  • Eat a high calcium diet – this strengthens the surface of the teeth.
  • Drink plenty of water – this increases your saliva production.
  • Attend for regular examinations to have your teeth checked for cavities.

Recommended Products

Colgate™ Duraphat 2800ppm and Colgate™ Duraphat 5000ppm are high-fluoride prescription-only toothpastes that can be used twice daily. They are particularly good at strengthening your teeth and preventing tooth decay.

Duraphat™ 22,600ppm is a high-fluoride varnish used on targeted lesions. It can only be applied by a dentist or hygienist to stop and reverse early tooth decay.

GC Tooth Mousse™ and GC MI Paste™ contain calcium and phosphate ions (the building blocks of the teeth), that help to repair early damage caused by tooth decay. Apply a small amount to the tip of the tongue and let it dissolve into your saliva. This creates a reservoir of ions, and your teeth will simply absorb the ‘building blocks’ that they need.

Mouthwashes can replenish the fluoride content of your teeth and are especially useful in between meals at separate times to brushing.

Facts and Myth Busters

  • A family fluoride toothpaste can reduce the risk of tooth decay by 37% in baby teeth and 24% in adult teeth.
  • Colgate™ Duraphat 2800ppm can reduce the risk of tooth decay by a further 20% in a single year, compared to family fluoride toothpaste.
  • Colgate™ Duraphat 5000ppm can reduce the risk of tooth decay by a further 55% over three months and 76% over six months compared to family fluoride toothpaste.
  • Too much fluoride does not damage your teeth – however, excessive ingestion of fluoride during tooth development (typically up to the age of 3) can cause fluorosis. This presents as white marks or spots on the enamel, which are harmless and do not indicate a weak tooth structure.

If you have any concerns over your oral health or suspect you are suffering from any stage of tooth decay, please get in touch with our patient coordinator Jaime on 01452 727 667 or email [email protected] and she can arrange a dental visit.

Take the first step to preventing tooth decay…

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