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Tooth Decay (cont.)

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Dental Care: Brushing and Flossing Your Teeth

Cause

The combination of bacteria and food causes tooth decay. A clear, sticky substance called plaque that contains bacteria is always forming on your teeth and gums. As the bacteria feed on the sugars in the food you eat, they make acids. The acids attack the teeth for 20 minutes or more after eating. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.

See pictures of a toothClick here to see an illustration. and tooth decayClick here to see an illustration..

You make tooth decay more likely if:

  • You don't brush your teeth twice a day, in the morning and before bedtime.
  • You don't floss your teeth each day.
  • You eat foods with a lot of sugar in them. The longer a sugary food stays on your teeth, the more the bacteria feed and make acids. Sticky sweets and sugary foods, such as raisins, sugar-coated cereal, cake, cookies, caramel, and taffy, cause the most damage.

Lack of fluoride in the public water supply also makes tooth decay more likely.

You can pass the bacteria that cause tooth decay to your baby. This can happen when you share spoons, forks, and other utensils with babies. The saliva you leave on the utensil contains the bacteria. Sometimes kissing can also transfer saliva and bacteria. You can help prevent tooth decay in your child by making sure that your family practices good dental health habits.

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