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Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in Australia affecting 1 in 3 adults. The rates are even higher in children. To prevent tooth decay, it’s important to understand what causes it and how to protect your teeth from damage.

What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is caused by several factors. A simple explanation is that:

  • Millions of bacteria that are known to cause tooth decay live inside your mouth.

  • When we eat and drink foods containing sugar, these bacteria feed off the sugar to create acid.

  • The acid then attacks the surface of the tooth.

  • Over time, this can cause the enamel to dissolve and weaken the tooth’s surface and damage the soft layers underneath.

  • This happens every time we eat food or drinks containing sugar.

  • Other factors – including saliva and fluoride – help to neutralise this acid the restore the tooth’s surface.

  • We can take steps to protect our teeth and prevent tooth decay every day.

Why is tooth decay so common?

Tooth decay is common among adults and children because these factors (eg bacteria and sugar in the food we eat) combine to create the perfect environment for tooth decay to develop over time. We can take steps to protect our teeth from tooth decay but it is always a balancing act to keep these harmful factors at bay.

Treating tooth decay

Tooth decay can develop without you noticing it so it’s important to visit your dentist regularly to spot any problems early. Your dentist may recommend a preventative treatment like fissure sealant or may use a filling to replace the damaged part of your tooth. (LINK TO PAGES FISSURE SEALANT OR FILLING) 

Eating habits and tooth decay

Most people know that eating too many cakes and sweets is bad for your teeth. We also need to watch out for hidden sugars in foods like bread, breakfast cereal and many snack foods that are labelled as ‘healthy’. Drinking a lot of fizzy drinks, energy drinks and fruit juice can also lead to tooth decay.

Daily steps to prevent tooth decay

There are some simple things you can do to make caring for your teeth and gums part of your daily routine:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day using a toothpaste that contains fluoride.

  • Use floss or interdental brushes to clean the areas in between your teeth.

  • Eat fresh, healthy food and avoid consuming added sugar in drinks and snacks.

  • Drink more water – most tap water in Australia has fluoride added to help protect and strengthen teeth.

  • See your dentist regularly for a check up to help protect your teeth from decay.

  • Follow through with any recommended treatment to prevent any problems from getting worse.