Tooth decay isn’t just a problem for children. It can happen as long as you have natural teeth. Dental plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, can build up on teeth. Plaque produces acids that, over time, eat away at the tooth’s hard outer surface and create a cavity.

Even teeth that already have fillings are at risk. Plaque can build up underneath a chipped filling and cause new decay. And if your gums have pulled away from the teeth (called gum recession), the exposed tooth roots are also vulnerable to decay.

But you can help protect your teeth against decay. Here’s how:

• Use fluoride toothpaste. Brush twice daily to help remove dental plaque.

• Floss regularly to remove plaque from between teeth. Or use a device such as a special brush or wooden or plastic pick recommended by a dental professional.

• See your dentist for routine checkups. If you are at a higher risk for tooth
decay (for example, if you have a dry mouth because of medicines you take), your dentist or dental hygienist may give you a fluoride treatment during the office visit. Or the dentist may recommend a fluoride gel or mouth rinse to use at home.

Source: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

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