Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic disease in both children and adults. The good news is that it can be preventable. Knowing what causes tooth decay, aids in its prevention. Three components are necessary for a cavity to happen. These include: bacteria, food for the bacteria and a tooth. If any of these criteria are missing, decay will not happen.
The most common bacteria associated with tooth decay are streptococcus mutans. These bacteria use the sugars found on teeth to create lactic acid which breaks down the enamel. The enamel is the inert, protective coating on the outside of our teeth that preserves the soft inner layers. If it is weakened, the tooth is more susceptible to damage and decay.
The food we eat can provide a meal for the bacteria on our teeth. Foods that are high in sugar or those that can be converted into sugar are what the streptococcus mutans thrive on. Their meal is changed into an acid that erodes the teeth.
Finally, the tooth is the setting where this process occurs. To prevent decay, it is very important to brush or rinse the food items from the teeth after eating. Limit the amount of sugary food or items that will turn into sugar (ex, crackers, chips, cereal ...). Good oral hygiene habits and a well balanced diet will help deter tooth decay.