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Diseases & Conditions : Oral Health

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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 bacteria with many contributing factors.

Who is at risk for tooth decay?

The answer is that everyone who has a mouth is at risk for tooth decay. 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:

  • A diet high in sweets, carbohydrates, and sugars

  • Living in communities with limited or no fluoridated water supplies

  • Poor oral hygiene

  • Reduced salivary flow

  • Being a child

  • Being an older adult

Preventing tooth decay

Preventing tooth decay and cavities involves five simple steps:

  • Brush your teeth and tongue twice a day, for 4-5 minutes at a time, with a fluoridated toothpaste.

  • Floss your teeth daily.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet and limit or eliminate sugary snacks.

  • Consult your physician or dentist regarding the supplemental use of fluoride and/or dental sealants to protect teeth against bacteria.

  • Schedule routine (every six months) dental cleanings and examinations for yourself and your family.