Tooth Decay

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Tooth decay is largely preventable

We often think of cavities and tooth decay as a childhood disease , which it often is. But tooth decay (dental caries) can affect anyone at any age – if the conditions in the mouth are right. Less adults have no teeth so many will enter old age with some or all of their natural teeth. New decay can develop on these teeth, especially on exposed root surfaces. When gums recede the softer root surface (dentine) is exposed and can decay more rapidly than the enamel covering the crown of the tooth. If you have had a lot of tooth decay (needed a lot of fillings) in the past you are more likely to be at risk of root decay.

Factors that affect your risk of tooth decay (cavities) –

Sugar. The frequency and amount of sugars eaten/drunk. The more often sugar is in the mouth and the longer sugar is in contact with tooth surfaces the more likely a cavity will develop. Aim to keep sugar containing food and drink to mealtimes only and avoid anything with sugar before bedtime.

Saliva flow – the amount and quality (its ability to buffer and neutralise acids produced by bacteria and sugar). Chewing sugar free gum can stimulate saliva flow.

Fluoride. Fluoride hardens the tooth surfaces and helps protect the teeth and root surfaces from tooth decay and acid erosion. Toothpaste is the most common way of fluoride helping to protect teeth. Find out which toothpaste is best for your here.

Fluoride can be found in all water supplies naturally but often not at a level which will protects teeth from tooth decay and acid erosion. Some water supplies in the UK and around the world do contain fluoride at the ‘optimal level’ to prevent tooth decay – one part (fluoride) per million (parts of water). Learn more about water fluoridation in the UK on the British Society of Fluoridation’s website.

Dental visits. Visiting your dentist and their team regularly will help ensure you have a healthy, functional and attractive smile for life.

Public Health England - Preventing Tooth Decay Image

Guide for parents of children with autism
Both can be found here at the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry.
Dental check up by 1 year old
All children should have their first dental check by their first birthday – find out more here.


toothbrushing habit
Another great resource developed by the team at Leeds University which aims to develop healthy habits can be found at Toothbrushinghabit here.

childsmile oral health advice
A great resource for information for parents of young children is Scotland’s Child Smile programme. You can find their information for parents and carers here

The amount and frequency of sugar intake is a major risk for tooth decay. Find out more about sugar here

Poor saliva flow (a common side effect of medications), increases the risk of tooth decay. Find out more about dry mouth here

British Society of Gerodontology logo
Mouth care for older people resources for carers can be found here at the British Society of Gerodontology

Mouth care cancer treatment
Tooth decay can be a consequence of cancer treatments. Learn more about mouth care during cancer treatment from Jocelyn Harding at Brushupuk here.
BrushupUK has other resources you may find helpful here.

Back to Healthy Tips for Happy Teeth and Oral Health

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