Medical Conditions



Tooth Decay (Caries or Cavities)

What is tooth decay (caries or cavities)?

Tooth decay is the disease known as caries or cavities, which is the destruction of your tooth enamel, the hard outer layer of your teeth. Tooth decay is 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 teeth 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 each 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.

Click here to view the
Online Resources of Oral Health

Last reviewed: 3/31/2013