Tooth decay (otherwise known as cavities or caries) is an oral disease that affects most people, both children and adults, at one point or another during their lifetimes. Luckily, it’s highly preventable!
What is tooth decay?
In short, tooth decay is the destruction of the enamel of your teeth. Tooth enamel is the hard outer shell on your teeth that is there to protect their more sensitive inner layers.
Tooth decay is an oral disease that we all have to work hard to prevent on a daily basis. But the good thing is that with with the right habits and tools, it's easy to prevent!
Where does tooth decay come from?
It's not particularly pleasant to think about, but your mouth is full of naturally-occurring bacteria. These bacteria feed off of residue left in your mouth by any sugary or starchy foods that you eat, and create acid plaque.
Teeth have 3 layers:
- Enamel (the hard outer shell)
- Dentin (the softer middle layer)
- Pulp (the centre of the tooth, which houses the nerves and blood vessels)
The acid plaque produced by oral bacteria first eats away at the tooth enamel, and this is the process by which cavities begin to form. Without intervention, the cavity will eventually reach your dentin, and then the pulp; and the more layers affected by decay, the worse the damaged will be.
How can I help my child avoid dental decay?
There is a variety of things you can do that together will help prevent decay and cavities and maintain your child's oral health in the long term:
- Help your child establish good oral hygiene habits early on in life: twice daily brushing and once daily flossing, and visiting the dentist at least twice a year for a cleaning and checkup.
- Provide wholesome, nutritionally dense foods that are low in sugar and carbohydrates, as these tend to result in cavities.
- Buy fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash. Fluoride makes teeth more resistant to acid plaque, which helps prevent cavities from forming. It’s often added to public water supplies, however, so be sure to discuss any additional fluoride with your child’s dentist first, as too much fluoride can cause problems as well.
- Make sure your child stays well hydrated throughout the day. Being well hydrated improves saliva production, and saliva helps wash away bacteria and food particles that would otherwise cling to the teeth.