Everyone dreads them, but what exactly is a cavity? We all know you’re not supposed to have them, and keeping up with your oral care will help prevent them. But let’s dig deeper and go further into what having a cavity really means. Children, teens and adults can all experience tooth decay – the destruction of your teeth enamel, which is the hard outer layer of your teeth. Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on your teeth, which helps lead to tooth decay.

According to MouthHealthy, when foods or drinks containing sugar are consumed, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. These acids are then stuck on your teeth due to the stickiness of the plaque, causing the enamel to break down over time and a little hole in your tooth to form – a cavity. Although cavities are more common among children, there are certain changes that occur with aging that make cavities a problem for adults as well. Some of these changes include recession of the gums away from the teeth, and combined with an increase of gum disease incidences, this will expose roots to plaque.

Tooth roots are covered with cementum, a softer tissue than enamel and are more susceptible to decay. They are also more sensitive to touch and to different temperatures. It’s not uncommon for people over age 50 to have tooth-root decay. In addition, because many adults lacked benefits of fluoride and modern preventive dental care when they were growing, they often are seen with several dental fillings. These fillings may weaken over the years and tend to fracture and leak around the edges. Then, bacteria accumulate in these areas, further causing acid to build up leading to decay.

To prevent tooth decay, follow these important tips:

• Brush twice a day using fluoride toothpaste

• Floss between your teeth daily

• Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals and limit your snacking

• Consider the use of supplemental fluoride, but only after checking with your dentist first.

Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examinations.