Tooth decay is a common disorder, second only to the common cold . Tooth decay is the damage that occurs as a result of an infection with certain types of bacteria that use sugars or starch(such as milk, bread, cookies, candy, soda, juice, and many others ) in food or drink to produce acids in your mouth that eat away at a tooth.
Throughout the day, a war takes place inside our mouths.
Our mouths are full of bacteria. Hundreds of different types live on our teeth, gums, tongue and other places in our mouths. Some bacteria are helpful but some can be harmful such as those that play a role in the tooth decay process. Bacteria and food can cause tooth decay.
Plaque, a clear, sticky film of bacteria is always forming on your teeth and gums. Plaque contains bacteria that feed particularly on sugary foods and drinks when you consume food and drink high in carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates (sugars and starches) increase the risk of tooth decay. Sticky foods are more harmful than non-sticky foods because they remain on the teeth.
The bacteria in plaque turn the carbohydrates into energy they need, producing acid at the same time. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth and over time, these repeated cycles of acid attacks begin to eat away at the tooth’s hard outer surface or enamel as it continues to lose minerals.
A chalky white spot may appear where minerals have been lost. This is a sign of early decay. Tooth decay can be stopped or reversed at this point. There are also some minerals in our saliva (such as calcium and phosphate) plus fluoride from toothpaste, water, and other sources. This team helps enamel repair itself by replacing minerals lost during an “acid attack.”
Our teeth go through this natural process of losing minerals and regaining minerals all day long.
A tooth has three layers. The hard outer layer is called enamel. The middle layer is called dentine. The centre of the tooth is called the pulp.
It contains nerves and blood vessels.
Over time, if the plaque is allowed to build up, the acid can continue to break down (dissolve) the surface of your tooth, the tooth enamel is weakened and destroyed; forming a cavity. Once a cavity forms, the lost tooth structure cannot be regenerated.
Once cavities have formed in the enamel, the plaque and bacteria can reach the dentine (the softer, bone-like material underneath the enamel), the process of tooth decay speeds up.
Without treatment, bacteria will enter the pulp (the soft centre of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels). Cavities usually do not hurt, unless they grow very large and affect nerves or cause a tooth fracture. At this stage, your nerves will be exposed to bacteria, usually making your tooth painful and temporarily worsening with exposure to heat, cold, or sweet foods and drinks. A tooth weakened by extensive internal decay can sometimes suddenly fracture under normal chewing forces.
The more layers that are affected by decay, the worse the damage. A cavity or hole in the tooth is permanent structural damage that a dentist has to repair with a filling. It usually occurs in children and young adults, but can affect any person.
If not treated, the bacteria can cause a dental abscess in the pulp and the infection could spread into the bone, causing another type of abscess and can cause pain, infection, and tooth loss. Tooth decay is a common cause of tooth loss in younger people.
Cavities are more common among children, but changes that occur with ageing make cavities an adult problem, too. Recession of the gums away from the teeth, combined with an increased incidence of gum disease, can expose tooth roots to plaque. Tooth roots are covered with cementum, a softer tissue than enamel. They are susceptible to decay and are more sensitive to touch and to hot and cold. It’s common for people over age 50 to have tooth-root decay.
Decay around the edges, or a margin, of fillings is also common for older adults. Because many older adults lacked benefits of fluoride and modern preventive dental care when they were growing up, they often have a number of dental fillings. Over the years, these fillings may weaken and tend to fracture and leak around the edges. Bacteria accumulate in these tiny crevices causing acid to build up which leads to decay. Dentists in dental clinics in Delhi and India are following a systematic protocol of 6 monthly reminders for patients to come for regular dental check ups so that a cavity can be detected and treated at an incipient stage.
What are the symptoms?
Tooth decay may not cause any pain until you have a cavity or an infected tooth. However, if you have dental decay you might have:
If you have a toothache, see a dentist. Sometimes the pain will go away for a while, but the tooth decay will keep growing. If you don’t get treatment, your cavities could get worse and your tooth could die.
What causes tooth decay?
Things that make you more likely to have tooth decay include:
Dentist in Delhi and dentist in India are getting involved in counselling kids to take care of their teeth to prevent cavities. A proper regime for fluoride treatments for kids is being followed in the dental clinics in Delhi , in an endeavour to prevent cavities.
How is it treated?
Treatment can help prevent tooth damage from leading to cavities .The best treatment for tooth decay depends on how advanced and severe it is.
For early stage tooth decay –
Your dentist may discuss a filling or crown with you –
If tooth decay has spread to the pulp (in the centre of the tooth, containing blood and nerves) –
If the tooth is so badly damaged that it can’t be restored –
How can you prevent tooth decay?
Oral hygiene is necessary to prevent tooth decay. It is often entirely preventable.
The best way to avoid tooth decay is to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible. You can prevent most tooth decay with these tips:
1- If you have children, get regular dental check-ups and cleaning’s to remove dental plaque, protect your child’s teeth and take steps early to prevent tooth decay.
2- Establishing good eating habits by limiting sugary snacks and drinks can help your child avoid tooth decay. Regular visits to the dentist at an early age should also be encouraged.
3- To help prevent baby bottle tooth decay, don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice.
4- To help prevent the spread of decay-causing bacteria, don’t feed your baby from utensils you have used.
5- Teach your children to brush their teeth in the morning and at night properly especially before bedtime and regularly.
6- Keep your children away from tobacco smoke.
Posted By – Dr. Shriya