As long as you have teeth, you are at risk for tooth decay. It is important to understand that different people have different risks, and these risks can change over the course of a patient’s life.
Sugar consumption is the #1 cause of decay. Bacteria that we all have in our mouths use sugar to create an acid. The acid creates a hole in a tooth, allowing the bacteria to multiply. The bacterial acids continue to invade the tooth and the bacteria spread to other teeth, creating holes in those teeth as well.
Saliva is our natural protector against decay. The amount and quality of saliva often changes as we age. This may be due to medical conditions (including the need for medications), and physiologic changes that contribute to “dry mouth”.
Root exposure becomes more common as we age. Recession increases the decay risk because bacterial acids can create holes in root surfaces much faster than on enamel.
Preventing decay is not as simple as brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist twice a year. It is important to partner with a comprehensive dentist who takes the time to customize a prevention plan based on the patient’s risk factors, tooth alignment, and gum/bone health.