Your mouth contains a lot of bacteria, which can create a film around your teeth. This film is known as dental plaque. Now, when foods that are rich in carbohydrates, such as bread, cereal, soda, milk, cake or candy stay on your teeth, the bacteria convert them to energy, producing acid at the same time.
A gradual buildup of the plaque can cause the acid to start dissolving the surface of your tooth. Consequently, this leads to holes known as cavities.
After cavities have formed in the enamel, the plaque and bacteria may start to dig deeper, into the softer, bone-like material underneath the enamel (the dentine). Since this part of the tooth is softer than the enamel, the speed of tooth decay process increases.
If this continues untreated, the bacteria will make its way to the soft centre of the tooth which contains nerves and blood cells, the pulp. The exposure of nerves to bacteria makes your tooth ache. And if exposure is prolonged, it can lead to a dental abscess in the pulp.
Basically, it can lead to three things
But you can catch it early. It is possible to spot a tooth decay before it’s too late and you’re about to learn how.
Symptoms of Tooth Decay
Outlined below are some symptoms of tooth decay.
Tooth decay doesn’t always cause pain. So, you need to look out for symptoms of dental caries. These are outlined below;
It can be a continuous pain that keeps you awake at night. In other cases, it’s an occasional sharp pain that has no obvious reason.
Your teeth may feel tender when you’re eating or drinking something cold, hot or sweet. This is often accompanied by pain.
Spot on the Teeth
You’ll find a black, brown, or grey spot appearing on the teeth. Also, be on the lookout for bad breath and an unpleasant taste in your mouth.
Prevention of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is a common problem. However, there are measures you can take to prevent it altogether. Some of them are outlined below:
Regular Visits to the Dentist
You have heard this many times. Still, we need to lay emphasis on it. A regular visit to the dentist will help prevent tooth decay. The dentist will schedule your visits based on the state of your teeth and gums.
Cut the Carbs
Stay away from sugary and starchy foods and drinks. This is especially important if you consume them between meals and within an hour of going to sleep. Also, avoid medications that contain sugar. Instead, consider sugar-free alternatives.
Look after your Teeth
You have to take proper care of your teeth by brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Also, use floss and interdental brush at least once a day.
Avoid Smoking and Excessive Drinking
Alcohol contributes a little to the erosion of tooth enamel. As such, try as much as possible to limit alcohol consumption. Also, you should quit smoking. Tobacco inhibits saliva production, which is necessary to keep your teeth clean.
Learn how to treat tooth decay in easy steps.
The method of treatment for tooth decay depends largely on how advanced it is. Let’s break it down, shall we?
This is useful if your tooth decay is still at the early stage. Your dentist will apply fluoride gel, varnish or paste to the affected part of the tooth. Fluoride strengthens the enamel, protecting your teeth from the acids that are responsible for tooth decay.
This treatment often comes with a counsel on the amount of sugar in your diet and the times you should not eat.
This involves the complete removal of the decayed portion using a drill. The hole created is then filled with a silver alloy, porcelain, a composite resin or gold. Don’t worry, these materials are safe. There is also mercury-based fillings known as amalgams. According to the FDA, these are also safe.
While allergy to fillings is possible, it is extremely rare.
When a tooth is so badly damaged that there isn’t much of it left, the best option is the crown. The dentist removes and repairs the damaged part, before fitting the crown over the rest of the tooth. This is usually made from a porcelain, porcelain fused to metal or gold.
Root Canal Treatment
This is only necessary for the tooth decay has spread to the centre of the tooth, which contains blood and nerves. This involves the total removal of the tooth canal and nerves in a process known as root canal treatment. The canal is filled, and a crown is used too.
Occasionally, the tooth can be completely damaged such that it cannot be restored. In this case, a complete removal would be ideal. The dentist can later replace this tooth either with a partial denture, a bridge, or an implant.
You don’t have to go through any of the treatments described above. However, you must spot the tooth decay on time. The best way to do this is through a regular visit to the dentists, who can spot tooth decay through regular examination or x-ray. It is much easier and cheaper to cheap when caught early.
Adults are expected to visit the dentist at least once every two years. While children under the age of 18 are supposed to have a check-up at least once every year.