Frequently asked questions

What is Tooth Erosion and what causes it?

Tooth erosion is a softening and wearing of enamel caused by continual presence in the mouth of acidic food and drinks, such as fizzy drinks and fruit juices.

This can occur even when there is good oral hygiene. This continual presence of acid softens the enamel which gradually gets brushed away.

Tooth erosion can be prevented by reducing the frequency of eating or drinking acidic foods or drinks. For infants, fruit juices should be diluted to five parts of water to one part juice. Dental erosion can also be reduced by not brushing immediately after a meal, a snack or drink. Brushing teeth straight away will result in loss of enamel. It takes about 1 hour for the acidity to be reversed and neutralized by the saliva.

What Causes Tooth Decay and Cavities?

A sticky film of bacteria, called dental plaque, is constantly forming on the teeth and especially in the area where the teeth and gum meets and on the biting surface of the teeth. When your child eats or drinks foods containing sugars or other carbohydrate, the dental plaque converts the sugar into acid.

Normally the acid is neutralized by saliva but when sugary foods are eaten too frequently the saliva is not able to cope and the acid causes the enamel (outer hard white surface of tooth) to soften. If this continues over a long period of time the plaque bacteria will penetrate through the enamel and cause softening inside the tooth.

Eventually a hole or ‘dental cavity’ will form. Dental cavities may develop if your child consumes sugary foods and drinks more than four times a day.

Early Dental Decay

Early Childhood Caries, sometimes known as baby tooth decay, refers to severe decay in the teeth of infants or young children. Very often it starts with transmission of bacteria called ‘streptococcus mutants’ from another family member who has dental decay.

Dental decay can occur almost as soon as the first baby teeth appear. It can start very quickly when sweetened liquids, including milk, milk formula and fruit juices are given and left clinging to an infant’s teeth for long periods.

The bacteria on the teeth are able to continually produce acid and this result in dental decay spreading very quickly through the teeth. A bottle given at night-time should only contain boiled cooled water. Remember a child should be fed and put to bed, but not put to bed and fed. Encourage drinking from a plastic cup as soon as possible.