A dentist has explained what causes tooth decay as well as the steps people need to take in order to prevent it.

Tooth decay begins when bacteria in your mouth make acids that attack the tooth’s enamel, which can have severe consequences.

It can lead to toothache, an increase in sensitivity when eating hot or cold foods as well as white, brown or black spots appearing on your teeth.

Dr Adarsh Thanki, Principal Dentist of the Ace Dental Group, Co-founder of PÄRLA and dental director at UNTIL, has shared the habits that cause tooth decay and how you can prevent it.

The Argus: Certain types of foods can be 'unfriendly' to tooth enamelCertain types of foods can be 'unfriendly' to tooth enamel (Image: PA)

What causes tooth decay?

A number of food and drink items are considered "unfriendly" to enamel and can contribute to tooth decay.

They include citrus fruits, dried fruits, sparkling water and "stain-inducing hot beverages" such as tea and coffee.

Dr Thanki adds: "As a nation of tea and coffee lovers too much exposure can be detrimental. Continuous exposure to these drinks, even if sugar-free, can contribute to enamel erosion. Give yourself a designated time frame and rinse your mouth with water after to minimise acidity. "

Alongside that, poor oral health is obviously the biggest contributor to tooth decay.

How to prevent tooth decay

Creating the perfect oral hygiene setup is the most important step to help prevent tooth decay.

This includes brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, as well as rinsing out with mouthwash afterwards.

Dr Thanki adds: "Incorporate an antimicrobial or fluoride mouthwash into your routine but do not use straight after brushing your teeth. Mouthwash can help reduce plaque, fight bacteria and strengthen tooth enamel." 

Alongside that, remember to stay hydrated throughout the day as water helps rinse away food particles, neutralise acids and maintain a healthy saliva flow.

Additionally, making sure you eat plenty of calcium-rich foods such as yoghurt, milk and cheese will strengthen tooth enamel.

Herbal teas can also be useful as they contain compounds that can help inhibit the growth of bacteria, reducing the risk of cavities.

Snacking on nuts and seeds can also be a benefit as they provide essential minerals like calcium and phosphorus, contributing to tooth strength.

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Dr Thanki adds: “It’s no secret that tooth decay is on the rise and it’s imperative to tackle this issue early on. In both children and adults, the impact of untreated dental problems extends beyond oral health but affects overall quality of life.

"Regular dental check-ups, early intervention and consistent oral hygiene practices is crucial to preventing those long-term consequences.

“As mentioned above, minimising the foods that can weaken your enamel and increase potential plaque will help reduce the risk of tooth decay and maintain optimal oral health.”