Tooth Decay

Dental decay is the destruction of the tooth or teeth. It occurs as a result of demineralisation of the enamel. Acidic erosion results from a chemical reaction between bacteria in the mouth and sugars or carbohydrates consumed in food or drinks.

Plaque is formed on teeth that are nourished by the sugars we consume. It is a mixture of bacteria, sugars and dead skin cells from the mouth. Plaque produces acids that dissolve and weaken tooth enamel, if left unchecked the deterioration can pass through to the dentine tooth layer below.

In more severe cases the decay can continue through to the pulp/nerve tissue, where the blood vessels and pain receptors are. If left untreated at this point, many complications could persist, such as severe pain, dental abscesses and tooth loss.

Dental decay (caries) can occur in all ages, however there is an increased prevalence in children, who tend to consume more sugary foods and drinks. There is also an increased likelihood of caries in adults above the age of fifty, where erosion can occur below the gum line in the cementum tooth layer covering the roots.

The body’s natural defense of saliva can itself be impeded by medicines that cause a dry mouth. Without saliva tooth decay has a greater chance of occurring. Many common medicines can cause dryness in your mouth, if you suffer from a dry mouth and take medicines please check with your dentist/doctor if this is the cause. If it is the cause it may be a simple change in medicine that may solve your dry mouth.

Without prevention dental decay could lead to tooth extraction or a root canal. It can also cause an unpleasant taste in the mouth and cause halitosis/bad breathe and need some form of treatment.

Prevention is always better than cure; therefore you should make regular visits to your dentist, who will assure that the condition is identified early.

Do’s and Don’ts

Having a healthy diet and avoiding foods such as crisps, which have the tendency to lodge between your teeth and feed bacteria. Flossing and brushing your teeth at least twice a day and ideally after meals. Using a toothpaste and mouthwash with fluoride helps strengthen the enamel and can repair demineralisation. Avoid snacking between meals, minimise sugar intake will help limit the ability for the bacteria to form plaque, and help prevent dental decay.

Below are some top tips to reduce the incidence of tooth decay:

  1. Reduce the frequency of sugary snacks and drinks, not the amount
  2. If you need to snack , snack on foods such as nuts and fresh or dried fruits
  3. Watch out for hidden sugars in food such as in cakes, biscuits and savory snacks
  4. Use Fluoride toothpastes twice a day
  5. Use a good quality Fluoride mouthwash especially after meals and after sugar intake
  6. Brush twice a day
  7. Floss every day
  8. Finally if you have exposed roots discuss with your dentist regarding medicated Fluoride toothpastes which help prevent root caries/decay


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