Everything You Need To Know About Dental Decay

An astonishing 31% of adults in the UK have tooth decay and tooth decay is the number one reason under 5s are admitted to hospital. It’s clear that as a nation, we have a long way to go when it comes to looking after our teeth to prevent tooth decay. By equipping yourself with more knowledge about gum disease, you can help keep it at bay.

What is dental decay?

Dental decay occurs when the enamel and dentine of a tooth soften after having come into contact with acid – various food and drink contain acid, notably those containing a lot of sugar. Dental decay is the same thing as tooth decay (also known as ‘dental caries’). Dental decay is caused by plaque acids that dissolve away the enamel and your tooth dentine. If left untreated, dental decay will lead to the need for a filling or in the worst case scenario, extraction.

Why do teeth decay?

Decay happens when sugars in food and drink react with bacteria found in plaque, forming acid, as we explored above. Whenever you eat or drink something that contains acid, the acids attack your teeth, softening and dissolving the enamel. The attacks last for around an hour after eating, after which time the natural salts in your saliva cause the enamel to remineralise and harden. Brushing your teeth before bed is crucial, as failing to do so means your enamel sustains attacks overnight for hours. Drinking plenty of water to wash away bacteria after eating foods high in sugar can help to reduce your chances of developing tooth decay.

How can I prevent decay?

Brushing your teeth correctly twice a day for two minutes each time using a fluoride toothpaste is the main way to prevent tooth decay. A good brushing technique encompasses brushing the inner and outer biting surfaces or your teeth and using interdental brushes or dental floss to remove lingering food particles – these can cause plaque and bad breath if you fail to remove them. Visiting the hygienist (as well as the dentist) is another crucial aspect to maintaining healthy teeth and gums. During a hygienist appointment, your teeth will be professionally cleaned, a process known as a “scale and polish”. This deep clean of your teeth removes tenacious staining that can’t be removed by brushing and flossing at home. Another simple and obvious way to avoid tooth decay? Avoid sugary foods! Check the ingredients of the products you buy and avoid anything with the suffix “ose”, which means the presence of sugar (fructose, maltose etc).


If you would like to book in for your routine dental hygienist appointment, please don’t hesitate to contact us.