Tooth decay

What causes tooth decay?

Read the transcript for this film: 'cause of tooth decay'

Plaque causes tooth decay and is made of traces of food, saliva and natural bacteria found in the mouth that turn food into acids.

The main factor in the cause of tooth decay is sugar.

When sugars enter the mouth, they are absorbed by the plaque/bacteria present on the surface of the teeth. This is sometimes known as an 'acid attack'. The bacteria convert the sugars to an acid which weakens the tooth surface.

This may not be visible in the early stages or may appear as a chalky white patch.

If we do not give our teeth time to recover from acid attacks, decay will spread and eventually a hole will appear in the tooth.

The more often your child eats or drinks sugary things the greater the chance of tooth decay.

Prevent tooth decay by remembering these easy rules:

  • Brush teeth and gums twice a day, in the morning and last thing at night. Use toothpaste containing at least 1000 parts per million (ppm) fluoride.
  • Children should be supervised until the age of seven and encouraged not to swallow toothpaste while brushing.
  • ‘Spit, don’t rinse’ after brushing – this gives the toothpaste time to work to protect teeth.
  • Keep food and drinks containing sugar to mealtimes only.
  • Plain milk and tap water are the safest drinks for teeth.
  • Register with a dentist and visit as advised.
Tooth decay cartoon