Dental decay is the process by which the hard outer layer of a tooth the enamel is broken down and the softer inside layer – called dentine – becomes infected by bacteria.

Once dental decay has occurred, the only way to correct it is by removing the rotting tooth material and replacing it with a filling. If this treatment is delayed, the infection will continue until the bacteria reach the pulp chamber, containing blood vessels and nerves, in the Centre of the tooth. This is the stage at which a root canal treatment may be required. In other words, dental decay is a serious matter.

Prevention starts with good oral hygiene. Oral hygiene is the process of cleaning the mouth and all of its structures – including the teeth, gums, and tongue – and maintaining that cleanliness over time. It needs to be done regularly and consistently – preferably twice daily, every day. The appropriate tools to use include a manual or electric toothbrush, interdental/ interproximal brushes, dental floss, toothpaste, and water.

A visit to a dental hygienist will help you choose the right equipment and establish the correct methods for your particular dental hygiene needs. The hygienist will manually remove any bacteria-bearing plaque and calculus that have accumulated on your teeth, setting you up to maintain good hygiene practices at home.

This minimization of plaque in your mouth, combined with a dental-friendly diet that limits starchy or sugary foods and sweet beverages, will see you well on the road to preventing dental decay.

Importantly, remember to keep up your tooth brushing and flossing during dental visits.