What is tooth decay?

Part of why brushing your teeth successfully is so crucial is because of the need to avoid tooth decay. Tooth decay can have serious consequences for your oral health but is easily avoided if you brush your teeth properly and use fluoride toothpaste, as recommended by dentists.

Your teeth are protected by a layer of a hard material called enamel which coats them. Unfortunately, enamel is constantly under attack from plaque, a substance which is formed every time you eat or drink. Food and drink which contain a lot of sugar and or starch produce the most plaque so should be consumed in moderation. But even healthy foods like fruit cause plaque production.

If the enamel starts to break down then the interior of the tooth is exposed. Small holes, called caries, can begin to form and grow into larger ones called cavities. The teeth will begin to become rather sensitive at this stage because the nerves inside will be exposed. Without enamel to protect the inside of the tooth, the problem can just get worse and you might end with a tooth that has lost its functionality and needs to be removed.

If you are in the habit of visiting your dentist every six months then your dentist ought to be able to spot the signs of dental decay and deal with it before the problem gets worse. Your dentist might identify that plaque has built up and hardened into tartar. Tartar can only be removed by a professional clean at the surgery, in a technique known as scaling and polishing, whereby the tartar is scraped off before the teeth are polished. This is another good reason to visit your dentist regularly so that procedures like this can be offered.

Using toothpaste enriched with fluoride is a vital component of efforts to protect your teeth. Fluoride helps to strengthen the enamel which coats your teeth. The stronger the enamel on your teeth is, the less likely you are to experience tooth decay because it will act as an effective barrier against plaque and its effects.