TOOTH DECAY & CAVITIES

Causes of Tooth Decay and Cavities

Majority of people have one or more cavities. Fortunately cavities can be prevented. This section provides information about cavities; its causes and how to prevent them. 

Your hygienist will advise you on proper brushing and flossing. Brushing and flossing daily prevent tooth cavities. You can find useful tips on how to properly brush and floss.

Tooth Decay

Children are not the only ones at risk of tooth decay; tooth decay affects all people irrespective of age. Fortunately we can prevent tooth decay by strictly following a good oral hygiene routine and eating healthy foods.

Definition

Tooth decay refers to a disease which destroys teeth. A natural tooth comprises of enamel which is the hard outer covering, dentin which is the layer after the enable and pulp which is the tooth center. The condition gets worse as decay gets to and destroys the inner layers of the tooth. 

If left untreated, tooth decay can cause discomfort, spread infection to other teeth, teeth loss and damage self-confidence. The pain caused by tooth decay can interfere with an individual’s normal day to day activities. Not only is tooth decay unhealthy it is also unsightly.

If a cavity is left untreated it can lead to a tooth abscess (pus accumulation inside the tooth or gum) which can be dangerous and deadly. Tooth decay prevention is cheaper and simpler compared to replacement or repair of a damaged tooth.

Causes of tooth decay

Plaque is the sticky bacterial coating that keeps accumulating on the surface of teeth. Bacteria that are contained in plaque break down sugar into acid which attacks the tooth’s outer covering (enamel). Therefore if you repeatedly take foods or beverages with a lot of sugar throughout the day, your enamel gets attacked over and over again. Acid damages the tooth causing decay. A cavity (hole) can be formed on the tooth as well.

Risk of tooth decay

Tooth decay can affect all people irrespective of age. You are at higher risk of getting tooth decay if:

  • You frequently snack and consume foods and beverages with a lot of sugar.
  • You suffer from dry mouth condition.
  • Your enamel is weak perhaps due to genetics or as a result of childhood disease.
  • You do not brush two times every day using a fluoridate toothpaste.

Is tooth decay transmissible?

Tooth decay is not transmissible. However it is possible for bacteria causing tooth decay to be exchanged from one person to another. Saliva of an infected person usually contains bacteria. Therefore bacteria may be transferred from one person to another through kissing or sharing cups or cutlery. 

How to prevent tooth decay

 

  • Brush teeth two times every day using fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Avoid consuming sugary foods and drinks all the time.   
  • Drink lots of water containing fluoride. 
  • See your dentist on a regular basis for dental exams and professional cleaning.
  • Talk to your dentist about dental sealants to determine if they are good for you and your family.

Areas commonly affected by decay

Any of your teeth can be affected by tooth decay. Decay commonly occurs in between teeth and also in the pits and fissures of back teeth (premolars and molars). It is hard to clean back teeth and in between teeth and food tends to accumulate in these area. It is also hard for toothbrush bristles to clean the fissures and pits of back teeth making them more susceptible to decay. Tooth decay can also occur in the root of a tooth and get deeper to the gum-line.

Symptoms of tooth decay

Some signs of tooth decay include:

  • Bad breath
  • Spots appearing on teeth
  • Loose fillings

Seek help from your dentist if your teeth become sensitive to cold or hot foods or drinks or in case you experience any pain. Your teeth will be examined and X-rays may be performed if necessary.

Tooth Decay Treatment

If tooth decay is detected early; that is before formation of cavities, the problem can be solved using fluoride treatments. If a cavity has already formed, the problem can fixed using a filling. For a big cavity, you will require a crown which replaces the damaged section of tooth. In case the tooth pulp has been damaged then only root canal treatment can save your tooth.   

Lastly, a tooth that is completely damaged has to be extracted and replaced. Discuss the options you have with your dentist and he or she will recommend the most suitable treatment plan to restore your oral health.

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