Tooth Decay – Causes, Treatment and Prevention

  • June 29, 2022
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What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is damage caused to the enamel or surface of the tooth. Bacteria in your mouth produce acids that damage your tooth enamel. Dental caries can develop into cavities in your teeth (cavities that are holes). Cavities and tooth decay are some of the most prevalent health problems in the world. In children, adolescents, and elderly people, they are very frequent. However, anybody with teeth, including new-born babies, may acquire cavities. If left untreated it can cause pain or infection or even tooth loss.
Tooth decay


What are the causes for tooth decay?

There are different types of bacteria that are present and some are useful as well as harmful. These bacteria interact with food to produce a soft, sticky layer called plaque. It’s because you consume a lot of sweets and carbohydrates and you don’t brush your teeth effectively. Bacteria soon start feeding on them and forms plaque if your teeth are not cleansed from sweets and carbohydrates. Plaque on your teeth can harden to tarts underneath or above the gum line (calculus). Tartar makes it harder to eliminate plaque and develops a bacterial barrier. Plaque acids destroy minerals from the hard external enamel of your tooth.

This erosion creates small apertures or enamel holes—the initial phase of cavities. When enamel portions become worn off, the next layer of your teeth called dentin may be reached by germs and acid. This layer is less acid-resistant and softer than enamel. Dentin has small, sensitive tubes that connect directly with the nerve of the tooth. With tooth decay, bacteria and acid move through the inner dental material, which contains nerves and blood vessels, to continue their attack through teeth. The pulp is enlarged and bacterially inflamed. Since the swelling cannot grow within a tooth, the nerve is pushed, producing discomfort. It becomes painful. The disturbance may even spread to the bone outside the tooth root.

Glucose, fructose, and, most often, sucrose is metabolized in to acids in a person’s mouth by a glycolytic process known as fermentation. These acids can result in demineralization, the dissolving of its mineral content when left in contact with the tooth. However, it is a dynamic process since remineralization can occur when saliva or mouthwash neutralizes the acid. Fluoride toothpaste or dental varnish can help in remineralization. If demineralization goes on overtime, adequate mineral content might be lost to dissolve and produce a hole or hollow. A white spot might seem where minerals have been lost. This is an early indication of tooth rot. At this moment, you can stop or reverse the deterioration. If you take better care of your teeth and restrict sugary foods and beverages, your enamel can still heal itself. However, more minerals are lost if the tooth decay process continues. The enamel gets damaged and eroded overtime to produce a cavity.


What are the symptoms of tooth decay?healthy tooth and tooth decay

  • Toothache.
  • Tooth sensitivity to substances that are sweet, hot, or cold.
  • White or brown stains on the surface of a tooth.
  • The cavity.
  • An infection that might result in the formation of an abscess (pocket of pus). Abscesses can cause discomfort, swelling of the face, and fever.



What are the risk factors that lead to tooth decay?

Location of tooth:healthy tooth and tooth decay

Decay happens at back teeth most commonly molars and premolars. These teeth contain several grooves, wells, and cranes, as well as many roots capable of collecting food particles. As it’s harder to reach back teeth and clean they are more prone to these tooth decay problems.

Foods and drinks:

Foods that hold your teeth long — including milk, ice cream, honey, sugar, soda, dried fruit, cookies, hard candies, and mint — might promote decay more than food that is readily rinsed off by saliva.

Bedtime baby feeding:

When infants are given bottles that contain milk, juice, or other sweets, they sleep with these beverages for hours and nourish decay-causing bacteria. These beverages remain on their teeth. This condition is commonly referred to as Baby bottle tooth decay. 

Insufficient brushing:

Right after eating and drinking, if you do not clean your teeth, you will quickly build plaque and initial stages of deterioration can occur.

Insufficient fluoride:

Fluoride, a mineral that occurs naturally, helps to prevent cavities and is even able to repair early tooth damage. Fluoride is added to many public water sources due to its advantages for teeth. It is also added to toothpaste and mouth rinses. However, fluoride is typically not present in bottled water.

Age factor:

Cavities are most common in children and adolescents. Elderly individuals are likewise more vulnerable. Teeth can wear down over time and gums can shrink, rendering teeth prone to root deterioration.Dry mouth symptoms

Dry mouth:

Saliva helps in preventing tooth decay by cleaning the food and plaque off your teeth. In the condition of dry mouth, the lack of saliva can’t encounter the acid produced by bacteria. Some of the chemotherapy treatments also can cause dry mouth as a side effect. In this condition hydrate yourself by drinking more water.

Eating disorder:

Bulimia and anorexia can cause substantial degradation of teeth and from cavities. Stomach acid washes over the teeth and starts to dissolve the enamel after repetitive vomiting. Saliva production may also be impaired by eating disorders.

Worn dental restorations:

Dental fillings might diminish, break down or become coarse over some time. This makes it easier to build up and difficult to eliminate plaque.


Tooth Decay Treatment

Cavities can be treated and several types are depending upon the status of the problem. The common tooth decay treatments are:

Dental fillings: ‌

If they are tiny enough then dentists can fill cavities. To eliminate the decay, the dentist drills into the cavity. Then plugs the hole with a harmless substance named amalgam. Then germs cannot reach your tooth deeper. Usually, dental filling takes less than an hour. Your mouth will be numbed by the dentist before the process is started.

Fluoride toothpaste:

You can use high-fluoride toothpaste prescribed by a dentist that helps in reversing early cavities. Fluoride is a protective mineral for your enamel. After the dental plaque decreases, it reconstructs minerals in your enamel. ‌You can restore your enamel from a cavity that’s where we can’t even look at. This repair is aided by fluoride.
Root Canal

Root canals:

You might require a root canal if the tooth or infection is spreading to the pulp. Your dentist removes the decayed pulp from the teeth and roots and cleanses it. The next stage is a temporary filling of the tooth. Then a permanent filling or a crown will have to be restored.

Tooth replacement:

In the worst situations, your dentist may remove your tooth if pulp damage cannot be repaired. Your dentist will advise the replacement of the lost tooth with a bridge or implant. 


How can we prevent tooth decay?OQ6UTX0

  • We can use fluoride toothpaste for brushing.
  • Rinse your mouth after you had your meal.
  • Avoid eating snacks frequently.
  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Drink tap water to get enough fluoride as public facilitated tap water contains fluoride.
  • Brush your teeth twice and also floss regularly.
  • Do not use tobacco products such as cigarette etc.
  • Make sure that your kids get their teeth with sealants. Dental sealants are thin plastic coverings that protect the back teeth’ chewing surfaces. Children should get sealants on their teeth as soon as their back teeth come in before degradation could harm their teeth.

This article is written by Dr. JaspreetDr. Jaspreet

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