Tooth Decay

Have you ever wondered how you get cavities in your teeth? Did you realize that it is caused over a period of time due to teeth decay? Cavities and tooth decay though more common in children, teenagers and older adults can affect anybody including infants. When left untreated it could lead to infection, pain or even tooth loss. The bacteria or germs in the mouth react with the sugars present in the mouth to form acids that attack the tooth enamel (outer surface of the tooth). Over a period of time it destroys the enamel causing tooth decay. It could also lead to cavities. Over time, the decay progresses further to the inner layers of the tooth called dentine (middle layer) and pulp (center). The more the number of layers that are affected, the worse is the damage caused.

Causes

Our mouth contains various types of bacteria that act on the food we eat and cause tooth decay. Plaque a sticky film is constantly formed on the surface of teeth and gums. If you run your tongue on the surface of your teeth, particularly the teeth at the far end of your mouth, you can feel this rough substance on your teeth. This plaque if not removed hardens and is a favourable spot for the bacteria to grow.

This bacteria act on the sugars in the food we eat and form acids. These acids start attacking our teeth within 20 minutes from the time we finish our food and start destructing the teeth enamel. They erode the enamel forming cavities. Once the enamel is worn off, the acids attack the subsequent tooth layer that is softer and less acid resistant called dentin. As tooth decay advances it further attacks the innermost layer called pulp that contains nerves and blood vessels. At this stage, you may start experiencing symptoms like tooth sensitivity, tooth ache etc discussed below.

Symptoms

The symptoms may vary depending on the extent of decay and the location of the affected tooth. Initially you may not notice any symptoms at all but as the decay worsens you may experience

  • Tooth ache

  • Sensitivity and pain while eating or drinking something hot, cold, sweet etc.

  • Dark spots or stains or white stains on teeth surface

  • Holes or cavities on the tooth surface

  • Bad breath

  • Swelling near the gums

In case you experience any toothache, visit our clinic. Sometimes the toothache may recede after some time but the tooth decay might still be there working on your tooth, damaging it. Our experts would help you get the right treatment such that your cavities don’t get worse and the tooth can be saved.

Risk Factors

Any person having teeth are at a risk of having tooth decay. But there are certain factors that may increase your risk of having cavities. Some of these are listed below.

  • Tooth Location- Tooth located at the back of the mouth such as premolars and molars are more likely to be damaged by tooth decay as they are difficult to clean and provides a favourable location for bacteria to thrive.

  • Certain foods and drinks such as milk, honey, sugar, dried food, hard candy, ice cream etc stick to the teeth for a long time and may cause tooth decay.

  • Frequent sipping or snacking provides a continuous source of acids that attack the teeth.

  • Bedtime infant feeding- Infants who are fed bottled milk, juice, formula or other sugar containing beverages at bedtime contain have a risk of these sugary substances staying on teeth throughout the night providing food for the decay causing bacteria.

  • Improper oral care- Not brushing and flossing regularly and not visiting your dentist regularly may lead to formation of plaque.

  • Fluoride deficiency- fluoride an active ingredient of most toothpastes and mouth rinses prevent cavities and reverse the decay in the initial stages.

  • Saliva deficiency or dry mouth due to certain medications, medical conditions chemotherapy drugs, radiation etc may aid tooth decay.

Treatment

Treatment for tooth decay depends on the extent of damage cause. Hence it is very important to visit your dentist regularly as it helps in early detection and treatment. In the initial stages, the damage can be reversed with the use of fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinses. If the decay has progressed you may require one or more of these treatment options.

  • Fillings-when the decay has progressed beyond the enamel. It is used when a cavity is formed. The decay is removed and filled with materials such as porcelain, tooth coloured resins, silver amalgams etc.

  • Crowns-when the decay is extensive then a crown, a man made replacement of the tooth is used. The decay is drilled along with enough of the decayed tooth to ensure a good fit. Crowns are made of porcelain, resin, gold, porcelain fused to metals etc.

  • Root canal- when the pulp is infected, it is removed thus saving the tooth instead of removing it.

  • Extraction- when the tooth is severely damaged, the tooth is extracted and replaced with a bridge or implant.

Prevention

Listed below are some tips that may help you prevent cavities.

  • Brush your teeth atleast twice daily (preferably after every meal) with a fluoridated toothpaste and floss atleast once a day.

  • Rinse your mouth with a mouth rinse containing fluoride.

  • Visit your dentist regularly so that cavities can be detected in the early stages.

  • Avoid frequent snacking and sipping and mainly before bedtime.

  • Consider the use of sealants that protect the enamel from plaque and acid attacks.

  • Fluoride supplements if your water does not contain enough fluoride.

It is advisable to talk to your dentist before considering the use of fluoride supplements or dental sealants. At Mukul Dabholkar’s Dental clinic our dentists would be pleased to help you with your queries and problems. Fix your appointments now before it’s too late.