There are many different causes of tooth decay. That's why it's called a multi-factorial disease. Improvements in our understanding of tooth decay mean it's easier to prevent than ever before.
Tooth decay is caused by the interaction of six key factors: teeth, cariogenic bacteria, fermentable sugars, saliva, the time food remains in the mouth and genetic factories. Tooth decay is now considered to be a mouth infection resulting from the synergistic effect of these different factors.
The mouth contains a very large number and variety of bacteria, particularly cariogenic bacteria (such as streptococcus mutans). These bacteria colonise dental plaque (or dental film) and ferment sugar from foods, producing lactic acid. This weakens the tooth by demineralising (dissolving) the dental enamel. The decay then spreads inside the tooth and reaches the pulp, which can be painful.
Repeated consumption and the prolonged presence of foods rich in fermentable carbohydrates (sucrose, fructose, starches, etc.) form afavourable environment for the development of tooth decay.
How can you avoid tooth decay ?
Don’t panic - there are effective ways to keep your teeth healthy: eat three meals a day, avoid snacking or drinking sugary products between meals, and brush your teeth twice a day, or after each meal if possible.
Fluoride: effective prevention
As well as brushing your teeth, you are advised to use a fluoride toothpaste, which is recognised as one of the most effective ways of preventing tooth decay. Careful brushing gets rid of dental plaque (or dental film) originating from saliva located on the surface of the tooth, which is colonised by oral flora micro-organisms.
Regular scaling is recommended to remove dental plaque on surfaces tooth brushes can’t reach. Dental floss and mouthwashes (containing a varying amount of antiseptic and fluoride) can also be beneficially,depending on the “decay sensitivity” of each individual. When brushing is not possible, chewing gum helps to produce saliva, which limits the formation of plaque.