The reason we brush and floss is to remove plaque, a colorless, sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. Plaque is one of the main causes of tooth decay. Dentists use the word “caries” to describe tooth decay.
How does plaque cause tooth decay?
The bacteria in plaque react with sugar in the foods we eat to produce acids that can attack and weaken tooth enamel (the hard, protective covering on our teeth), opening the way for cavities to develop.
What is a cavity?
A cavity is the space inside a tooth that remains once decay is removed. There are three different places where a tooth can experience decay.
Decay on the biting surfaces of the teeth occurs when plaque becomes trapped in the grooves. This is most common in children because they often miss these areas when brushing.
Decay between the teeth occurs when plaque is left to build up on these hard to reach surfaces. These areas cannot be reached by a toothbrush alone and may develop if you do not floss, or clean between your teeth, regularly.
Decay at the root surfaces of the teeth occurs if you have suffered gum recession or bone loss, often associated with gum disease, or periodontitis. It is also more common as you get older because gums have started to recede. If plaque is left to build up on the exposed roots of the teeth, which are not protected with enamel, then cavities will quickly develop.
How can I prevent cavities from developing?
Fortunately, you can easily prevent cavities from developing if you practice a proper oral care routine. Here is a checklist of must-do’s:
- Brush thoroughly twice a day, with a soft bristled toothbrush – preferably in the morning and before bed
- Use a fluoride toothpaste – fluoride is proven to help prevent cavities
- Clean between your teeth daily to remove plaque from areas your toothbrush can’t reach
- Eat a healthy diet and avoid frequent snacking on sugary foods and drinks
- Visit your dentist and hygienist regularly – at least once every six months, for a cleaning and exam
- Dentists recommend that you change your toothbrush at least every three months or earlier if the toothbrush looks worn, because research shows that a new toothbrush can remove more plaque than one that’s three months old
Provided as an educational service by Oral B Laboratories. www.OralB.com