- Tooth decay is a process of damage to the tooth caused by bacteria.
- Poor oral hygiene, sugary and acidic foods and drinks, dry mouth, genetics, and lack of dental visits are all potential causes of tooth decay.
- To prevent tooth decay, brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and floss at least once daily.
- Treatment of tooth decay includes bridges, dental fillings, and root canal treatment.
- With proper preventive care and prompt treatment, you can protect your teeth and maintain good oral health.
Tooth decay is a common yet preventable dental issue affecting children and adults. It occurs when bacteria in your mouth produce acid that gradually erodes the tooth’s enamel, leading to cavities and other dental problems. Here’s everything you need to know about tooth decay, including its causes, symptoms, and treatments.
What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is a process of damage to the enamel and deeper layers of the tooth caused by bacteria. It can affect any part of your mouth, including teeth, gums, and other structures like your tongue. If left untreated, it can cause pain, discomfort and even lead to loss of teeth.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
There are various reasons for tooth decay. Here are some of them:
Poor Oral Hygiene
Poor oral hygiene is one of the leading causes of tooth decay. When you don’t brush your teeth regularly, food particles and plaque accumulate on the surfaces of the teeth, leading to decay. Bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugar and starch left in the mouth after you eat, producing acid that gradually dissolves the enamel. To prevent tooth decay, brushing your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least once daily to remove food particles and plaque between your teeth is essential.
Sugary and Acidic Foods and Drinks
A diet high in sugar and acid can lead to tooth decay. Sugary and acidic foods and drinks contribute to bacterial growth in the mouth and damage tooth enamel. It is essential, therefore, to limit your intake of sugary and acidic foods, including candy, soda, sports drinks, and fruit juices. You can replace them with water, milk, and unsweetened beverages.
Saliva is crucial in washing away food particles and neutralizing acids in the mouth. However, some medications, medical conditions, and lifestyle habits can cause dry mouth, decreasing saliva production. Dry mouth can increase your chances of developing tooth decay as acids produced by bacteria build up more quickly without enough saliva to wash them away. To avoid this, stay hydrated, chew sugar-free gum, or use saliva substitutes to promote saliva production.
Genetics can also influence your risk of developing tooth decay. Some people are more prone to developing cavities due to their genetic makeup. If your parents or siblings have had a history of tooth decay, it is wise to be more vigilant about your oral hygiene and dental check-ups.
Lack of Dental Visits
Regular dental check-ups are necessary to detect tooth decay early and to receive appropriate preventive care. However, skipping dental visits can lead to a build-up of plaque and tartar, increasing your risk of developing tooth decay. You should visit your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and check-ups, even if you have no dental issues.
Tooth decay can be treated in various ways. Here are some ways to restore your oral health to its former glory.
The damage of tooth decay can lead you to lose multiple teeth. However, don’t be discouraged! Robust dental bridges can replace the missing tooth and fill in gaps. These bridges are made from materials such as porcelain and metal, connected by a false tooth in the middle.
Your dentist may recommend a dental filling if the decay is minor and limited to the enamel. A dental filling is a procedure in which a dentist removes the affected area, and replaces it with fillings made from composite resin, porcelain, or silver amalgam.
This treatment is fast, painless, and relatively inexpensive, and it can restore the normal functioning of your tooth, prevent further decay, and improve your smile.
Root Canal Treatment
If the decay has spread deeper into the tooth, affecting the pulp and the nerve, your dentist may recommend a root canal treatment. Root canal treatment is a complex procedure that involves removing the infected pulp, cleaning and shaping the root canal, and filling it with a rubber-like material. This treatment may take two or three visits to the dentist, and it may require local anesthesia and sedation. However, saving the tooth before extraction is often a last resort option.
Tooth decay can be a significant issue, but with proper preventive care and prompt treatment, you can protect your teeth and maintain good oral health. If you are experiencing any symptoms of tooth decay, be sure to consult with your dentist.