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Tooth Decay (Caries or Cavities)

What is tooth decay (caries or cavities)?

Tooth decay is the disease known as caries or cavities - a highly preventable disease caused by many factors.

Who is at risk for tooth decay?

The answer is ... everyone who has a mouth. We all host bacteria in our mouths which makes everyone a potential target for cavities. Risk factors that put a person at a higher risk for tooth decay include:

  • persons with diets high in sweets, carbohydrates, and sugars
  • persons who live in communities with limited or no fluoridated water supplies
  • children
  • senior citizens

Preventing tooth decay:

Preventing tooth decay and cavities involves five simple steps:

  1. Brush your teeth, tongue, and gums twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste.
  2. Floss your teeth daily.
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet and limit or eliminate sugary snacks.
  4. Consult your physician or dentist regarding the supplemental use of fluoride and/or dental sealants to protect teeth against plaque.
  5. Schedule routine (every 6 months) dental cleanings and examinations for you and your family.

Smart Snacking

When you are deciding which snack to "snack" on, the National Institute of Dental Research, part of the National Institutes of Health, reminds you to think about the following:

  1. the number of times a day you eat sugary snacks.
  2. how long the sugary food stays in your mouth.
  3. the texture of the sugary food - is it chewy or sticky?
  4. Damaging acids form in your mouth every time you eat a sugary snack. Why not consider an alternative, such as raw vegetables, fresh fruits, or whole-grain crackers next time the urge to "snack" strikes again?

Source: National Institute of Dental Research

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