Tooth decay (also known as cavities or caries) Is the second-most prevalent disease in Canada after the common cold; and although not life threatening, it affects most people to some degree during their lifetime. Children and senior citizens are the two groups at highest risk for cavities. Fortunately, with proper home & professional care tooth decay is highly preventable.

Because we all carry bacteria in our mouths, everyone is at risk for tooth decay. Those people with a diet that’s high in carbohydrates and sugary foods, or those people who reside in communities without fluoridated drinking water are at a higher risk for tooth decay. Likewise, people with a lot of fillings are at a higher risk of developing tooth decay because the area around the restored portion of a tooth (unless properly cleaned on a daily basis) can be a good breeding ground for bacteria.

Tooth decay can occur when the teeth are frequently exposed to foods containing carbohydrates (starches & sugars) like milk, cakes, ice cream, candy, carbonated soft drinks, along with some fruits, juices and vegetables. Even “diet soft drinks” can harm the teeth because they contain acid which can damage tooth enamel resulting in an increased risk of sensitive teeth and decay.

Remember, natural bacteria live in our mouths and form plaque which interacts with the deposits left on the teeth from those sugary and starchy foods, creating acids. It is these acids that damage the tooth enamel by dissolving, or demineralizing the mineral structure of the teeth, weakening them and creating tooth decay. The acids formed by plaque can be counter-acted by the natural saliva (which acts as a buffer) in our mouths during waking hours, however we don’t produce saliva while asleep. Although saliva is the body’s natural defence against cavities, saliva alone is not capable of combating tooth decay.

The best way to help prevent tooth decay is to brush and floss twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste (which helps to remineralize the tooth structure), and clean between the teeth daily with dental floss or interdental cleaners. Ideally, try to brush after every meal and especially before going to bed.

Remember to schedule an appointment with us every six months or so, for a professional cleaning by the hygienist and a thorough dental exam because dental problems often remain silent, creating discomfort only after significant damage has occurred. During your exam we can identify many of these potentially devastating problems before they cause damage.

Left neglected, tooth decay can lead to root canal infection, permanent deterioration of tooth substance and even loss of the tooth itself; however with proper oral hygiene at home, attention to what and when you eat, together with those all important semi-annual visits to our hygienists, tooth decay can be virtually eliminated.

Now that’s something to smile about!

Yours for better dental health,

Dr. James Hallam