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Tooth Decay FAQs


Q. What causes tooth decay?
A. Sugars and starches in sweets, certain diary products, some dried fruits, and carbonated beverages often linger on teeth. Tooth decay (dental caries) usually starts as a result of bacteria in the mouth interacting with these sugars, causing the formation of acid. This acid breaks down tooth enamel, which in turn makes the tooth more susceptible to bacteria, and decay results.

Q. What can I do to reduce the chances that my teeth will decay?
A. There are several preventive measures you can take to avoid tooth decay, including:
  • Brush with a fluoride toothpaste and floss two times a day.

  • Limit your intake of processed sugar, limit between-meals snacks, and eat nutritious meals.

  • Consider using a supplemental fluoride, which changes the chemical composition of tooth enamel, making your teeth more resistant to the acid.

  • Ask your dentist about putting dental sealants on your back teeth to protect them from decay.

  • Visit your dentist twice each year for professional cleanings and an oral examination.
Q. What other kinds of damage can tooth decay cause?
A. Tooth decay can strike when gingival tissues recede or "pull away" from your teeth and expose tooth roots to calculus and plaque. This can lead to periodontal disease. Also, since the roots of your teeth are not as hard as your tooth enamel, they are more likely to decay if they are exposed to acids produced by the bacteria in your mouth. An early sign that might indicate decay at the roots of your teeth is sensitivity in your mouth to hot and cold.

Just because you've had a tooth filled doesn't mean it is no longer susceptible to decay. As fillings age, they fracture or leak, leaving tiny places for bacteria to thrive. If this happens, decay can occur around the fillings.

Q. What can I do to get more affordable dental care?
A. One way that you may find savings on dental care is to purchase a dental benefits plan. You can select from a range of dental insurance plans or you can purchase a dental discount plan. A discount plan is not insurance. With a discount plan you gain access to a network of dentists who have agreed to give plan participants a reduced fee for their services. It's a good idea to look at the type of dental procedures you think you will need and see if the plan can provide you with savings.


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