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Tooth decay is the gradual breakdown of the tooth, beginning with the enamel surface and eventually progressing to the inner pulp.
Tooth decay is caused by acids produced by certain mouth bacteria in dental plaque. Factors that affect this process include oral hygiene, diet, meal frequency, saliva production, and heredity. Teeth with significant decay are said to have caries, or cavities.
People with tooth decay may have tooth pain, including sensitivity to cold food and drinks.
The ADA recommends regular tooth brushing—daily brushing, ideally after each meal.1 Although thorough brushing varies from person to person, five to ten strokes in each area should be adequate.2 Toothpastes containing 1,000 to 2,500 ppm (1 to 2.5 mg per gram) of fluoride have been shown to reduce caries risk.3
A recent population survey found blood lead levels were associated with the amount of dental caries in children and adults. The authors estimated that lead exposure is responsible for roughly 10% of dental caries in young Americans.4 For this and other health reasons, known and potential sources of lead exposure should be avoided. Common sources of lead exposure may include paint, foods grown near roadways, and water from lead pipes.5
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2016.