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What is tooth decay and how can it be prevented?

Tooth decay is one of the most common health problems. Here at Cheam Village Dental Studios, we help our patients to minimise the risk of tooth decay with advice on oral care and by offering regular check-ups to monitor the health of the teeth and gums. This is a guide from the dentist in Cheam on how tooth decay is defined, the symptoms, risk factors and ways in which it can be prevented.

What is tooth decay?

The definition of tooth decay is the deterioration of a tooth or teeth as a direct result of the action of bacteria in the mouth. This bacterium creates acids that damage the enamel, which is the front covering of the tooth. This damage wears a hole in the tooth that is known as a cavity. The development of a cavity can result in infection and the loss of the tooth.

How does a person know if they have tooth decay?

During the initial stages of having a cavity, it is quite possible not to be aware of it at all, and it may be something that only the dentist in Cheam is able to spot. However, if the patient hasn’t been for a check-up and the cavity is allowed to progress, they may go on to feel pain or discomfort in the tooth. It may also feel much more sensitive, particularly to foods or drinks that are especially hot or cold. This can be accompanied by visible staining on the tooth.

What increases the risk of developing tooth decay?

The positioning of the tooth is a significant factor in the likelihood that it will become decayed. The back teeth are often the hardest to clean, so it is easy for plaque and food debris to become stuck there and cause deterioration.

Some foods tend to attach themselves to the teeth for long periods of time, rather than being washed away by saliva like others. Foods that tend to do this include milk, honey, ice cream, cake and most sugary meals and snacks.

Eating many snacks throughout the day and sipping juices or fizzy drinks on a regular basis gives bacteria more of an opportunity to grow in the mouth, creating the perfect conditions for developing tooth decay.

Having a very dry mouth increases the chance that a person will have decayed teeth. This is because saliva is nature’s protection for the teeth against any bacteria in the mouth. A dry mouth can be caused by some medications, smoking or simply not drinking enough water.

What are the best ways to prevent the teeth from decaying?

The teeth should be brushed at least twice every day for two minutes, using a fluoride toothpaste. Flossing or using interdental brushes is important too. Decay can be stopped in its tracks by making regular appointments with the dentist in Cheam to check on the health of the teeth and gums.

Staying well hydrated will encourage the production of saliva which will help to keep the teeth decay free.It is also a good idea to try to stick to mealtime eating only rather than continually snacking, whilst also keeping sugary foods and drinks to an absolute minimum.

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