All members of the Family

Dental Decay is:

  • a bacterial disease. Bacteria cause decay by producing acids when they break down the sugar compounds on which they feed.
  • dependant upon dietary sucrose. Sucrose (sugar) in the diet forms a gel over and between teeth. If it is very thick the saliva cannot wash it away fast enough to prevent bacteria utilizing it and forming acids. The more often you eat, the more sucrose is available to replenish any gel the saliva has managed to wash away.

    How much sugar is in popular drinks?

    How much sugar is in the foods we eat?


    No sugar

    Yoghurt, milk & fruit

    Have some sugar but they are an

    Flavoured milk

    4 teaspoons in a single serve carton


    important part of our diet.

    Fruit Juice

    6 teaspoons in a small cup

    Bread & crackers

    Less than 1 teaspoon

    Sports drinks

    8 teaspoons in a single serve carton

    Muesli Bars

    3 teaspoons

    Soft drinks

    10 teaspoons in a can

    Fruit roll ups

    5 teaspoons



    6 teaspoons

A healthy salivary flow is important.

Saliva contains enzymes, buffers, proteins & minerals. Saliva is a natural cleansing agent of the teeth and gums and also acts as a lubricant to assist with speaking, eating and swallowing. The buffers contained in saliva help to soak up the acids produced by bacteria that cause dental decay. Saliva also contains calcium and phosphates that help to remineralise teeth. Drinking lots of water and chewing sugar-free chewing gum stimulates salivary flow (although it may annoy your mother and damage your jaw joints!) If you have a problem with a dry mouth, please advise your dentist.

Fluoride Supplements.

If the water supply you are using is not fluoridated (for example tank water or if you use water filter) and you are suffering from dental decay you will benefit from the use of additional fluoride. Fluoride supplements come in a tablet for daily use, in concentrated gels or mouth- rinses for daily or periodic use, and of course in toothpastes. These are excellent preventive supplements which we can provide specific recommendations on.

Cleaning your teeth.

The aim when cleaning your teeth is to remove the bacterial plaque layer. Bacteria hide in nooks and crevices. In your mouth these are the grooves on top of your teeth, the spaces between your teeth and in the crevices between the gums and your teeth. You should thoroughly brush your teeth twice a day (we are finding that many of our patients achieve better results with an electric brush) and floss your teeth at least once a day. Remember to look in a mirror when cleaning your teeth you don't wipe down a bench without looking at it! And, if you usually wear glasses, wear them to clean your teeth so that you can see.

Tips for Parents wanting children to keep healthy teeth


  • Avoid sharing spoons with your infant. Current research shows the main source of transmitting "decay-forming bacteria" is from the mother (caregiver) and the critical period is from age 13-24 months. Reducing this initial bacterial habitation will help lower the risk of decay.
  • Ensure both parents have good teeth and gums. Regular checks and good oral hygiene reduces the number of harmful oral bacteria in your mouth, so less is transmitted to your children.
  • Avoid sharing toothbrushes between family members to reduce the spread of bacterial and viral infections.
  • Limit the frequency of sugary and acidic snacks. Make water the main fluid to drink from a young age. Water has a neutral pH and helps wash and dilute bacterial acids. It is even more important in children with very little saliva or those living in warmer climates.
  • Juice and soft drinks have high acid contents. For example one can of cola (200ml) contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar as well as phosphoric acid (diet cola has substitutes BUT still contains phosphoric acid and caffeine). Decay will form quickly when sweet food is consumed in a mouth with lots of plaque.

Important tips

  • do not snack between meals
  • restrict eating sweets and sugary drinks to meal-times
  • sport drinks such as "Powerade" are very high both sugar and acids. Use water at the gym.
  • plan a diet which includes milk & milk products, fruit & vegetables, fish, lean meat & poultry, bread and cereals.
  • Try having snacks like nuts and cheese- these have less 'decay-forming' potential! Cheese is an excellent snack, containing calcium and phosphate which helps strengthen enamel from acid attacks.
  • If you feel that your child is at higher risk of decay because of poor cleaning or a sweet tooth or previous fillings or living in an area with non-fluoridated water, then please ask your dentist or dental hygienist for advice. All dental disease is preventable. There are many preventive products now available like fluoride mouth rinses and Tooth Mousse (contains calcium and phosphate ions.)

We advise all our patients to regularly visit our dental hygienists for professional oral hygiene advice and cleaning of your teeth. Dental decay is dental destruction. A good team approach between you, your dentist and hygienist will achieve optimal dental health.

All members of the Family