Tooth decay, also known as caries, is caused by bacteria interacting with food particles left on the surface of the tooth. Bacteria feed on the sugars in the food and produce acids. These acids and bacteria combine to form a sticky substance called plaque. Plaque clings to your teeth and gives the acids a chance to eat away at the protective enamel of the tooth, eventually causing tooth decay. The process is reversible in the early stages through intake of calcium, phosphate, and fluoride.
All of us carry bacteria in our mouth which make us susceptible to tooth decay.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Risk factors include:
- Poor dental hygiene
- High numbers of bacteria
- Insufficient fluoride
- Frequent use of medications containing sugar or causing dry mouth
- Diet high in sugars
- Malnutrition, including vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Medical conditions, such as Sjogren's syndrome , that decrease the flow of saliva in the mouth
- Children whose caregivers or siblings have severe caries have a greater chance for dental caries
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