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Tooth Decay (Caries or Cavities)

What is tooth decay (caries or cavities)?

Tooth decay is the disease known as caries or cavities, which is the destruction of your tooth enamel, the hard outer layer of your teeth. Tooth decay is a highly preventable disease caused by bacteria with many contributing factors.

Who is at risk for tooth decay?

The answer is that everyone who has teeth is at risk for tooth decay. We all host bacteria in our mouths which makes everyone a potential target for cavities. Risk factors that put a person at a higher risk for tooth decay include:

  • A diet high in sweets, carbohydrates, and sugars

  • Living in communities with limited or no fluoridated water supplies

  • Poor oral hygiene

  • Reduced salivary flow

  • Being a child

  • Being an older adult

Preventing tooth decay

Preventing tooth decay and cavities involves five simple steps:

  • Brush your teeth and tongue twice a day, for 4 to 5 minutes at a time, with a fluoridated toothpaste.

    • Brushing with fluoride toothpaste should begin when a child gets his or her first tooth. Use only a very small amount, about the size of a grain of rice.

  • Floss your teeth daily.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet and limit or eliminate sugary snacks.

  • Consult your health care provider or dentist regarding the supplemental use of fluoride and/or dental sealants to protect family members' teeth through the age of 16.

  • Ask about fluoride varnish, which can be applied to teeth every 3 to 6 months.

  • Schedule routine (every 6 months) dental cleanings and exams for yourself and your family.

 

 

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Eakle, W. Stephen, DDS
Online Medical Reviewer: Hollaway, Beth, RN, M.Ed
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/31/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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