What Causes Tooth Decay And How Can I Prevent It?

As a general rule, tooth decay is a bad thing. But we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t explain the reasons behind it further. Today, Accent Smile Center will answer a question that’s very important to your oral health: What causes tooth decay, and how can I prevent it?

What is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is also classified as dental caries or cavities and is a common oral health condition defined by the demineralization of tooth enamel and underlying structures. When acids produced by bacteria in dental plaque erode the hard outer layer of the tooth, small holes can occur. Fillings are a common treatment for cavities.

Causes of Tooth Decay

There are a number of factors that can encourage tooth decay. These are some of the most common ways that it happens:

  • Poor Oral Hygiene and Habits: When you don’t floss or brush adequately, plaque can accumulate on the surface of your teeth. When plaque isn’t removed, it produces erosive acids that lead to decay. Bad dental habits, like infrequent dental visits, not using fluoride toothpaste, and neglecting to replace toothbrushes regularly, can also contribute to decay.
  • High Sugar or Carbohydrate Diet: Consuming foods or beverages high in sugar and carbohydrates, especially between major meals, can provide fuel for bacteria in the mouth to produce acids that attack tooth enamel.
  • Acidic Foods or Drinks: Citrus fruits, sodas, and fruit juices can all work to weaken tooth enamel and make teeth more susceptible to decay. 
  • Acid Reflux: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can expose enamel to stomach acid, which is naturally erosive, particularly on the back of the teeth.
  • Dry Mouth: Saliva will help to neutralize acids in the mouth and remineralize tooth enamel. Dry mouth, which can be caused by medications, medical conditions, or mouth breathing, reduces saliva production and increases the risk of tooth decay.
  • Enamel Defects: Structural defects or abnormalities in tooth enamel, such as enamel hypoplasia or fluorosis, can also make your teeth more vulnerable to decay.
  • Genetics: Some individuals may be genetically predisposed to tooth decay due to factors such as enamel thickness or saliva composition.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain conditions, such as acid reflux, eating disorders, or diabetes, can increase the risk of tooth decay by exposing teeth to acid or affecting saliva production.
  • Age: Aging can lead to changes in oral health, including gum recession and decreased saliva production, which may increase the risk of tooth decay. 


What Causes Tooth Decay And How Can I Prevent It?

Prevention of Tooth Decay

Now that you’re aware of the causes and risk factors, let’s talk about all of the ways you can actively prevent decay from becoming a problem with help from our team at Accent Smile Center.

  • Brush Twice a Day: Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes twice a day, using a soft-bristled brush. Ensure thorough brushing to remove plaque and food particles from all tooth surfaces. 
  • Floss Daily: Floss between your teeth at least once a day to remove debris and plaque from areas your toothbrush can’t reach, such as between teeth and along the gumline. 
  • Fluoride is Key: In addition to using fluoride toothpaste, fluoride mouthwash is also a huge asset to strengthen enamel and prevent decay. 
  • Limit Sugar and Acidity: Reduce your intake of sugary and acidic foods and beverages, such as candy, soda, and certain fruits. These substances can contribute to enamel erosion and increase the risk of decay.
  • Drink Water: Drinking lots of water throughout the day, especially between meals, can help rinse away food particles and neutralize acids in the mouth.
  • Eat a Balanced Diet: Consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Avoid frequent snacking, especially on sugary or sticky foods, which can promote the formation of plaque and decay.
  • Chew Sugar-Free Gum: Chewing sugar-free gum after meals can stimulate saliva flow and neutralize acids, remineralize enamel, and wash away food particles. 
  • Visit Your Dentist Regularly: Schedule regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings every six months (or more often if insurance permits or your dentist recommends it). Dental visits allow for early detection and treatment of decay and help maintain optimal oral health.
  • Consider Other Habits: Besides diet, there are other things like tobacco, clenching, or grinding your teeth that can harm this aspect of your health.
  •  Stay Informed: Keep yourself informed about the latest advances in dental care by communicating with our team. 

What Causes Tooth Decay And How Can I Prevent It?

Defying Decay

Working with Dr. Gatgens, Dr. Densmore, and Dr. Noble will give you the best possible resources for fending off tooth decay. Whether you’ve always had great oral health or you’re trying to do better, our offices are a wonderful place to visit for optimal treatment. You can reach us in Dickson and Belle Meade