If you’re lucky enough to have teeth, then you’re at risk for tooth decay. No one is immune from tooth decay. Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect your smile. Understanding what causes this type of dental damage and the factors that raise your risk will help.

Why do we get Tooth Decay?

One easy word. Plaque. Plaque is a clear, sticky film comprised of bacteria, saliva and other debris. Typically, plaque is a danger to your teeth. If plaque is not properly removed, it slowly erodes the enamel that makes up the tough outer layer of teeth. Called dental caries, cavities or tooth decay, this damage is permanent. While a small dental cavity may go unnoticed, they will  get worse with time. In the beginning, you may also experience sensitivity, a nagging toothache, or pain when you eat something cold or bite down hard. If not addressed, you may see discoloration or a hole in the tooth’s surface.

Risk Factors for Dental Decay

There are numerous factors that can raise your risk of developing dental caries or cavities:

  • A diet of sweets. Sugary snacks and drinks provide the bacteria lurking in the mouth with loads of fuel for their destructive activities. Likewise, foods and drinks that cling to the teeth can also spur plaque formation.
  • Poor oral hygiene. An effective tooth brushing and flossing routine removes plaque before it causes decay. Visiting your dentist for regular cleanings helps to clear away anything that you missed. It also offers a chance to deal with problems early before they become harder and more expensive to treat. Cutting corners with your oral hygiene will increase your odds of cavities.
  • Tooth placement. Teeth that are harder to clean are more susceptible to decay. That means teeth that are misaligned or located in the back of the mouth are at higher risk. If you have any teeth that are misaligned, it’s a good idea to see a dentist. There are many options available.
  • Inadequate fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral that is widely recognized for its ability to fight off dental decay and support oral health. There are concerned about ingesting too much fluoride, but without enough fluoride, teeth are more vulnerable.
  • Certain health conditions. People battling dry mouth have less saliva to rinse bacteria and plaque from tooth surfaces. Heartburn and eating disorders often introduce stomach acids into the mouth. These acids damage the enamel, weakening it and making it easy prey for decay. Other medications and health conditions can also raise risks.
  • Worn dental fixes. Fillings, crowns and other dental fixes restore the appearance and function of damaged teeth. Over time, they can weaken and wear out, creating places for plaque and bacteria to hide. Many of these fillings and crowns are not meant to last a lifetime. It’s important to see a dentist to make sure they are still intact.

Preventing Tooth Decay

What can you do to prevent decay?

  • Be mindful of your diet.
  • Limit sticky or sugary foods and drinks.
  • Be proactive about your oral hygiene.
  • Brush with a fluoride toothpaste and floss regularly.
  • Keep up with dental checkups.
  • Ask for a professional fluoride treatment at every checkup.
  • Alert your dentist to any health concerns that could raise your risks.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for advice or tips that will help you protect your teeth.

At Wekiva Dental, we love to see you smile. Healthy, beautiful smiles are our mission, so we’re happy to work with you to protect your oral health and help you achieve your best grin. To make an appointment, contact us today.