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Health > Dental Health > Tooth decay

Tooth decay

A tooth is made up of 3 layers. The outer layer is called the enamel. The layer underneath the enamel is known as dentine and the core of the tooth is made up of softer material called pulp. In the pulp reside the nerves. If the teeth are not properly brushed twice a day and rinsed with water every time you eat something, the food particles accumulate in the oral cavity particularly in between the teeth and oral bacteria converts this into acids.

This acid is called lactic acid, this dissolves the enamel and gets into the next layer which is dentine and forms a lesion or white spots; if left unattended this gives rise to a cavity in the tooth. At this stage, the nerve endings in the pulp get exposed leading to a severe toothache; when the decay reaches the root part of the tooth; the tooth decays and falls off. To avoid tooth problems, you should brush your teeth at least twice daily in up and down strokes rather then from side to side, this removes plaque more effectively.


You don't brush your teeth after meals or snacks and before bed.

You don't floss your teeth each day.

Lack of fluoride in the public water supply also makes tooth decay more likely.

You can pass the bacteria that cause tooth decay to your baby. This can happen when you share spoons, forks, and other utensils with babies. The saliva you leave on the utensil contains the bacteria. Sometimes kissing can also transfer saliva and bacteria. You can help prevent tooth decay in your child by making sure that your family practices good dental health habits.

The damage done to teeth by this disease is commonly known as cavities.

You eat foods with a lot of sugar in them. The longer a sugary food stays on your teeth, the more the bacteria feed and make acids. Sticky sweets and sugary foods, such as raisins, sugar-coated cereal, cake, cookies, caramel, and taffy, cause the most damage.

Tooth decay can cause pain and lead to infections in surrounding tissues and tooth loss if not treated properly.

Throughout childhood and adolescence, there are many opportunities for primary prevention of tooth decay. Caries in the permanent teeth increase with age, and is higher in adolescents than young children. By the time adolescents finish high school, approximately 80% have experienced tooth decay.

Effective personal preventive measures (eg. toothbrushing with fluoride toothpastes, flossing) should be started as soon as teeth erupt and be supervised by a parent until children are old enough to do well on their own — typically around age 6 or 7. Tailored dental visits provide an opportunity to assess dietary and oral hygiene practices and to place sealants on vulnerable permanent teeth that erupt between the ages of 5 and 13.

The damage done to teeth by this disease is commonly known as cavities.

Tooth decay can cause pain and lead to infections in surrounding tissues and tooth loss if not treated properly.


A combination of bacteria and food causes tooth decay and cavities. You can prevent tooth decay by taking steps to limit the bacteria and by eating healthy foods.Effective tooth brushing and flossing Brushing and flossing.

Brushing and flossing help limit bacteria on your teeth.


Get into a routine for brushing. Brush after meals and snacks and before bed.

Use a toothbrush with soft, rounded-end bristles and a small enough head that allows you to reach all parts of your teeth and mouth. Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.

You may also use an electric toothbrush that has been given the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of acceptance. Studies show that powered toothbrushes with a rotating and oscillating (back-and-forth) action are more effective at cleaning teeth than are other toothbrushes, including other powered toothbrushes.

Use a fluoride toothpaste. Some fluoride toothpastes also offer tartar control, which may help slow the formation of hard mineral buildup (tartar) on the teeth.

Place the brush at a 45-degree angle where the teeth meet the gums. Hold the brush firmly, and gently rock the brush back and forth using small circular movements. Do not scrub, since vigorous brushing can make the gums pull away from the teeth and can scratch your tooth enamel.

Brush all surfaces of the teeth, tongue-side and cheek-side. Pay special attention to the front teeth and all surfaces of the back teeth.

Brush chewing surfaces vigorously with short back-and-forth strokes.

Brush your tongue from back to front. Some people put some toothpaste or mouthwash on their toothbrush when they do this. Brushing your tongue helps remove plaque, which can cause bad breath and help bacteria grow. Some toothbrushes now have a specific brush to use for your tongue.

Use disclosing tablets every now and then to see whether any plaque remains on the teeth. Disclosing tablets are chewable and will color any plaque left on the teeth after you brush. You can buy them at most drugstores.


Floss at least once a day. The type of floss you use is not important. Choose the type and flavor that works best for you. Use any of the following methods:

The finger wrap method: Cut off a piece of floss 18 in. (45.72 cm) to 20 in. (50.8 cm) long. Wrap one end around your left middle finger and the other end around your right middle finger, until your hands are about 2 in. (5.08 cm) to 3 in. (7.62 cm) apart.

The circle method: Use a piece of floss about 12 in. (30.48 cm) long. Tie the ends together, forming a loop. If the loop is too large, wrap the floss around your fingers to make it smaller.

A plastic flossing tool makes flossing easier. They are available at most drugstores.

Gently work the floss between the teeth toward the gums. Curve the floss around each tooth into a U-shape, and gently slide it under the gum line. Move the floss firmly up and down several times to scrape off the plaque. Popping the floss in and out between the teeth without scraping will not remove much plaque and can hurt your gums.

You may want to try electric cleaning devices (interdental cleaning devices or interdental brushes) that are made to clean between your teeth. They can be as effective as using dental floss.

If your gums bleed when you floss, the bleeding should stop as your gums become healthier.

Healthy diet

Eat many types of food, especially whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and food that is low in saturated fat and sodium. Good nutrition is vital for children as their teeth develop, and for adults to maintain healthy gums and avoid tooth decay. For nutrition advice.

Mozzarella and other cheeses, peanuts, yogurt, milk, and sugar-free chewing gum (especially gum that contains xylitol) are good for your teeth. They help clear your mouth of harmful sugars and protect against plaque. These make great after-meal snacks.

Avoid foods that contain a lot of sugar, especially sticky, sweet foods like taffy and raisins. The longer sugar stays in contact with your teeth, the more damage the sugar will do.

Avoid between-meal snacks.

Do not snack before bedtime, as food left on the teeth is more likely to cause cavities at night. Saliva production decreases while you sleep, so saliva does not clean your mouth well during sleeping hours.

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