Unfortunately, cavities are common dental issue for many Americans. In fact, over 40% of children in the U.S. will have a cavity by the time they reach kindergarten.

In order to prevent cavities, it’s important to understand what exactly causes cavities in the first place. In this post we’ll dive into some of the common causes of cavities and what you can do to prevent tooth decay.

How does tooth decay start?

When you eat, the sugars and starches from your food are left on your teeth. Breads, cereals, milk, fruits, sweets, juices, and soda all contain either sugars, starches or both. The bacteria that naturally live in your mouth will feed on these leftover particles.

As the bacteria feeds, they create acids. These acids, combined with your saliva and the food particles in your mouth, create plaque. Plaque is a sticky, colorless (or pale yellow) film that sits on your teeth. Typically, plaque can be washed away with a toothbrush and proper dental care. But when left on your teeth for 12 to 24 hours, that plaque can turn into tartar.

How does tartar help create cavities?

Tartar, also known as dental calculus, is a deposit that forms on your teeth when plaque isn't removed. Tartar creates a strong bond to your teeth and usually has to be removed by a dentist.

The acids in plaque and tartar dissolve into the protective enamel surface of your teeth over time. When enough acids have dissolved into the enamel, it creates a hole. This hole is a cavity. Cavities are treated by a dentist who removes the decay from the tooth and fills-in the hole the acids have created with a resin composite. This is an unpleasant process that starts by the dentist using drill and dental pick to completely remove the decay.

The best way to avoid going through this is to practice good dental hygiene techniques.

How can I prevent cavities?

Fortunately, there are a few simple ways you can help to prevent cavities. First, reduce the amount of sugary foods and beverages that you eat and drink to keep the bacteria in your mouth from having something to feed on.

Next, make sure to brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day, preferable after every meal, to keep plaque from building in your mouth. To help achieve your oral health goals, it’s important to use a plaque removing toothpaste or dental gel.

Finally, it's recommended to visit a dentist at least once every six months for an annual dental check-up. This ensures that your teeth are clear of tartar and any cavities that may have developed are properly taken care of.

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