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Risk factors for tooth decay

The main risk factors for tooth decay are the following:

  • Bad oral hygiene:
    • Not brushing teeth regularly
    • Not using fluoride products such as toothpaste and mouthwash, and not drinking fluoridated water when possible
  • A diet rich in sugar and often consuming sweet beverages and food
    • Often consuming sugary or acidic food and beverages, which increases the sugar’s contact with teeth and acidy in the mouth, is ideal for the development of serious cavities
    • Consuming several small portions of sweets or sugary drinks over the course of the day, which is more damaging to teeth than having the same quantity in one shot
    • Eating sweets between meals or as snacks, which is more damaging to teeth than eating them during a meal. The production of saliva is higher during meals and protects teeth against cavities
    • Eating sweets in the evening without brushing your teeth before going to bed, which increases the risk of a cavity because saliva production is lower at night and teeth are less protected
    • Giving a child:
      • A sugary drink in a baby bottle or sippy cup. Such containers allow frequent and prolonged contact between teeth and the sweet liquid. The risk of cavities develops fast and is thus much higher
      • A bottle of milk to put them to sleep. As saliva production decreases during sleep, teeth are less protected against the sugars in the milk
      • A sweet or sticky snack. Such food can get stuck between teeth while they are already less protected by saliva, which is less abundant between meals. The risk of cavities is thus higher
  • For a parent to neglect having their own cavities treated
    • Parents can increase the risk that their baby gets cavities by putting the child’s utensils, food or pacifier in their own mouth. Doing so transmits bacteria that cause cavities. The more a child is contaminated at a younger age, the higher the risk of having cavities. In babies, the risk of cavities is higher if parents have untreated cavities
  • Suffering from a dry mouth.
    Dryness of the mouth may increase the risk of cavities. It may be caused by the following:
    • Sjögren’s syndrome, a chronic disease characterised by functional impairment of glands that produce saliva and tears
    • Radiation treatment to the head and neck
    • Taking certain medication
  • Losing autonomy
    • Loss of physical autonomy as a result of arthritis or Parkinson’s disease, for instance, can lead to difficulty in keeping steady and using a toothbrush properly
    • Loss of cognitive autonomy as a result of Alzheimer, for instance, can prevent you from taking care of your oral hygiene by yourself

Last update: November 8, 2016


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