A healthy balanced diet combined with good oral hygiene and regular preventive care can help keep teeth healthy. Tooth decay is the most common health problem in Australia, however it is largely preventable.
What is Tooth Decay?
When we eat or drink, teeth are exposed to an acid attack. Bacteria in food and drinks change sugars into acids, and when teeth are exposed to acids for a long enough period of time, cavities occur. Consuming sugary foods and drinks on a regular basis is the number one cause of tooth decay, so avoiding sugars in the diet and limiting snacking is among the best ways to prevent tooth decay.
The role of Saliva
Saliva is the body's natural way of preventing tooth decay. It dilutes and washes acids and sugars from the mouth and reduces the effects of acids produced by the plaque bacteria. Saliva will not have enough time to repair any damage if acid attacks occur too often and a cavity will develop in a tooth.
What is tooth erosion?
Enamel is the hardest thing in the entire body and covers the outside of the teeth to protect the inside layers of the teeth. Tooth erosion happens when acidic foods and drinks with a pH below 5.5 soften the teeth and dissolve away tooth enamel, which causes a loss of tooth structure, and sometimes damage the tooth all the way down to the gum line.
Looking after our teeth
- Drink tap water
- Limit amounts of sugary drinks and foods, or wherever possible avoid soft drinks, sports drinks, vitamin waters, cordials, fruit juices and drinks and energy drinks.
- Limit acidic drinks, including the above sugary drinks, as well as wine, alcopops, diet and artificially sweetened soft drinks.
- See the dentist and dental hygienist at least once a year for preventive checks and professional scaling and cleaning. Any bleeding or toothache should be investigated.
- Brush thoroughly twice a day and always before bed time
- Floss every night
- Protect your teeth when playing sports by wearing a professional mouthguard
- Don't add sugar or sweeteners to babies' bottles, pacifiers (dummies) or food
- Don't put baby to bed sucking a bottle, except if it has water in it
- Milk and water is best for children