What causes decay?

Sugar and refined carbohydrates are used by plaque bacteria, producing acids which attack the tooth. Acid may penetrate below the tooth surface, and dissolve sorne tooth minerals.

Natural recovery (or remineralisation) will usually replace much of the tooth mineral lost below the tooth surface. This ʻattack and recoveryʼ process occurs every time we eat.

lf the ʻattackʼ outweighs the ʻrecoveryʼ process over longer periods of time, the damage becomes visible and looks like chalky ‘white spotsʼ on the teeth. Early ʻwhite spotʼ decay can often be seen on teeth along the gemlike. If the acid damage continues the white spot turns into a hole in the tooth.

Fluoride (from water and toothpaste) helps toughen the teeth to resist acid attack at the tooth surface, and also helps in the natural recovery rebuilding the damaged tooth.

To control and reverse dental decay takes some effort, but most gains can be made by developing a few routine habits.

Why does decay happen?

Not enough fluoride

SUGAR: too much - too often

Soft drinks, cordial and sports drinks, tea and coffee with sugar, sweets and highly sugared snacks e.g. sweet biscuits, health bars.

Dry mouth, which may be caused by some medications (e.g. anti-depressants), drugs and extreme stress

Saliva helps to protect our teeth by diluting the acid that forms after eating. Dry mouth may increase the chances of tooth decay.

What can I do to control decay?

Your dental professional can help you to find what is causing decay in your mouth and advise you on the steps you can take to control it.

Your teeth

Your diet

Healthy alternatives

If your mouth feels dry . . .

keep your mouth comfortable by:

Dental visits

Visit regularly - your dental professional will help you keep your teeth free of decay and fillings by:

You may need to make more frequent brief dental visits to check your progress while you are changing your eating and brushing habits. Not every tooth surface will improve at the same rate so it is important to check that your home treatment plan is working.


Your Checklist


Good habits

It can take time to establish new brushing and eating habits, but it becomes easier as time goes on. You will find that the rewards are worth the effort.