Tooth decay is a process of destruction or softening of your tooth enamel caused by acids (acids are created when plaque bacteria break down sugar in your mouth). It produces a problem in children, teens, and adults. When you consume foods containing sugars, the bacteria in plaque (a sticky film of bacteria) produce acids that attack tooth enamel.
Tooth decay leads to the cavity, which permanently damages the areas in the rugged surface of your teeth that create tiny openings or holes. It is stimulated by a combination of various factors such as; frequent snacking, sipping sugary drinks, and not cleaning your teeth well. Even though tooth decay is common in children, teenagers, and older adults, but anyone who has teeth may get cavities, including infants. And if cavities are not treated on time, they get larger and affect deeper layers of your teeth. They can result in severe toothache, infection, and eventually tooth loss. Visiting dentist regularly and proper brushing and flossing habits are your best protection against cavities and tooth decay.
Symptoms Of Tooth Decay
The symptoms usually vary depending on their extent and location. When a cavity/ tooth decay is in its’ genesis, you may not have any signs at all. As the decay gets severe, the causes may be visible:
- Toothache and spontaneous tooth pain
- Sensitivity in teeth
- Little or severe pain while eating or drinking sweet, hot or cold
- Visible holes or pits in your teeth
- Swelling or pus around a tooth
- Damage or broken teeth
- Chewing problems
- Brown, black or white stain on any surface of a tooth
- Pain when you bite down
- Severe cavities may lead to:
- Pain that interferes with daily living
- You may lose weight or nutrition problems may arise from painful or uneasy eating or chewing problems
- Tooth loss may affect your look, as well as your confidence and self-esteem in social platforms
- Though in rare cases, a tooth abscess — a pocket of pus that’s resulted by a bacterial infection — which may lead to more severe or even life-threatening infections
Causes Of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay develops over time. It is essential to understand the reasons behind tooth decay so that you can be cautious accordingly:
Plaque forms – Dental plaque is a transparent sticky film that covers your teeth, which is formed by eating a lot of sugars and starches and not cleaning your teeth well. The plaque bacteria create acidic by-products that eat away at the tooth enamel, slowly creating holes in the teeth called cavities
Plaque attacks – Tooth decay is mostly caused by sweet, sticky foods, and drinks. The more sugar consumed, the more acid is formed, leading to tooth decay. Sugar combines with a plaque to dilute the enamel, leaving you vulnerable to tooth decay. Each time you eat sugary food, your teeth are exposed to damage from the acids for the next 20 minutes. This erosion causes small openings or holes in the enamel — the first stage of cavities. Once areas of enamel are weakened, the bacteria and acid can reach the next layer of your teeth, called dentin. Dentin has tiny tubes that directly contacts the nerve of the tooth, causing sensitivity.
Destruction continues – As tooth decay starts, the bacteria and acid enter through your teeth, moving next to the inner tooth material (pulp) that includes nerves and blood vessels. The pulp becomes swollen and annoyed by the bacteria. As because there is no place for the swelling to expand inside of a tooth, the nerve becomes pressed and causes pain.
Prevention Of Tooth Decay
Tooth decays do not come with symptoms; hence you may not be aware that a cavity is forming. That’s why it’s necessary to have regular dental check-ups and cleanings, even when your mouth looks fine. However, if you experience a toothache, visit your dentist as soon as possible.
- A tooth filling is the most immediate form of treatment by your dentist.
- Avoid sugary beverages and food that feed the bacteria in your mouth.
- Brush regularly with a fluoridated toothpaste.
- Floss regularly to remove plaque and food particles from the spaces between your teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach. This helps to promote healthy teeth as well as healthy gums.
- Fluoride toothpaste helps as fluoride flows into weak spots to help rebuild these areas before they can become cavities. Use fluoride toothpaste to brush your teeth after eating or drinking.
- Rinse your mouth properly. And if your dentist feels you have a high risk of developing cavities, he or she may suggest rinsing with the fluoride.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Go for professional teeth cleanings and regular oral exams that may help to spot them early.
- Use dental sealants. A sealant is a protective plastic coverage applied to the chewing surface of back teeth. Sealants may last for a few years before they need to be replaced, but they need to be checked regularly.
- Sometimes tap water needs to be consumed. Most public water supplies contain fluoride, which can help reduce tooth decay significantly.
- Eat tooth-healthy foods. Foods like fresh fruits and vegetables increase the flow of saliva, and unsweetened coffee, tea, and sugar-free gum also help wash away food particles.