Decay is not inevitable.
There are three things that must be present at the same time in order to get cavity:
Obviously, without teeth, you cannot get a cavity. Teeth have pits and fissures that trap food and germs. Teeth also can dissolve in the presence of acids, which is what bacteria produce when they rest on teeth. To protect teeth, we apply sealants which fill grooves, pits and crevices to keep food and bacteria out. We also apply fluoride to “harden” the enamel so that acids cannot penetrate as quickly.
If we lived in a germ free bubble, we could eat all the candy we want, and we’d never get a cavity, even if we never brushed! Teeth can only decay in the presence of bacteria. Of course, we cannot live in a germ free world under normal circumstances, but we can keep the bacteria count reduced to a level where there are not sufficient numbers to do damage. To accomplish this, we need to floss as well as brush to remove plaque, or bacterial colonies. The bacteria that live between the teeth are the most damaging, and the hardest to reach. If we floss just once a day, there are not enough bacteria left to cause decay to grow quickly. Flossing and brushing are equally important.
We all need food to survive, but certain foods are more damaging to teeth than others. Starches and sugars of any kind are attacked by the bacteria in your mouth and in only 20 seconds, acids are already dissolving your teeth. Depending upon the nature of the food, the dissolving may continue for 20 minutes (soft drinks) or up to 90 minutes (fruit roll type snacks). The stickier the food, the longer it stays on the teeth, and the more damage it does. The more frequently one snacks, the more dissolving of teeth occurs. If you eat 500 M&Ms™ all at once, you will not get decay, but if you eat 500 M&Ms one per minute, your teeth will decay very fast. It is not as important how much sweets you eat as it is how often! If your child must snack, make sure it is cheese, carrots, celery, or some other healthy food. The best beverage is plain old water. Save the treats for dessert with meals. When we are not eating, the saliva in your mouth, which contains minerals, actually re-hardens enamel. The more time resting between snacks, the more repair of enamel that occurs.