Dental practices have come a long way in the last 100 years. It’s no longer something that only the rich can afford. In fact, an increasing number of people are keeping their own teeth into old age. While this can be partly associated with the improvements in dental technology, t’s also thanks to an increased awareness of tooth decay and how to prevent it.
What Is Tooth Decay
Your teeth are covered in a substance called enamel. It’s the hardest compound in the human body and one of the toughest substances on the planet. Unfortunately, it can be damaged. When this happens the bacteria that are present in your mouth can get through the enamel and move into your tooth.
Underneath the enamel is a softer tissue, known as dentin, this envelopes the pulp and the nerves. The bacteria initially attacks the dentin, causing cavities that need to be filled.
If they are not treated then the bacteria will find their way to the pulp and nerves, this is when you’ll notice the toothache. It’s a distinctive and deliberating pain that requires you to take action. Ignoring this symptom will lead to an abscess and potentially damage to your jawbone as well as the loss of your tooth.
The Cause Of Tooth Decay
Your mouth is full of bacteria, this is normal. In fact, some of the bacteria in your mouth are helpful to you and your immune system. However, the bacteria in your mouth reacts with the sugar you eat. This creates a sticky substance known as plaque which coats your teeth. The bacteria in the plaque react with the sugar to create acid. This acid then attacks the enamel on your teeth. Over time the enamel will be eaten away, leading to cavities and other issues.
The plaque can also harden around the base of your teeth, it forms tartar which can also damage the enamel on your teeth. Tartar is also the leading cause of gum disease.
It’s worth noting that this is a moderately slow process. You can take steps to avoid the development of cavities. The key is to be aware of how to prevent tooth decay and to recognize the early signs.
For example, white spots on your teeth suggest the enamel has been worn away. At this stage, the enamel can repair itself. Darker spots indicate the cavity is already forming and you need dental help.
Preventing Tooth Decay
There are several things you can do to prevent tooth decay. But, perhaps the most important step you should take, is to book a regular appointment for your children with a good pediatric dentist Sydney. Creating good dental habits when they are young will help to ensure they take care of their teeth throughout their life.
One of the most important things you can do to prevent tooth decay is to clean your teeth regularly. The good news is that the process of creating acid from sugar and bacteria takes time. You won’t lose your enamel instantly! Providing you brush your teeth for two minutes every morning and evening you’ll remove the majority of the plaque from your mouth, reducing the likelihood of cavities forming.
Alongside this, you should flow at least once a day. It can also be beneficial to use a mouthwash. However, dentists generally recommend a non-alcoholic mouthwash.
When talking about brushing your teeth it is also important that you don’t use too much pressure. This can damage your enamel and gums. Hold your brush with your forefinger and thumb, this will ensure you use the right amount of pressure.
The saliva in your mouth is very good at neutralizing the bacteria and the acid that are so harmful to your teeth. That’s why people with dry mouths are more likely to suffer from tooth decay. You can add this natural process by chewing sugar-free gum. This encourages saliva production and the positive benefits for your oral health.
Of course, you can’t chew standard gum as you’ll be increasing the amount of sugar in your mouth and the potential damage to your teeth.
In most places, the water treatment center adds fluoride to the water. This is because they know it helps to strengthen teeth and bones, reducing the likelihood of cavities. However, some research suggests that Fluoride can increase the risk of cancer.
That’s why some water treatment centers stopped adding fluoride. You’ll need to decide how serious you think the risk is before you can choose whether to add fluoride to your diet or not.
Before you make your final decision you should note that many toothpastes have fluoride in them, which may be enough for you
As mentioned, sugar is one f your worst enemies. If you didn’t eat sugar then the bacteria in your mouth wouldn’t create plaque or acid and your teeth would theoretically be fine!
Of course, there is sugar in virtually everything you eat, from natural sugars in fruit to additives in crisps that improve the flavor and addictiveness. If you start reading ingredients you’ll be surprised by what foods have sugar in them!
While you can’t avoid sugar completely, you can avoid foods high in sugar, such as soda. You can also avoid having snacks between meals as this will increase your sugar exposure.
Who Is Affected By Tooth Decay?
The bottom line is that everyone can be affected by tooth decay. There are some issues that increase your risk. Your genes can influence your chances of getting tooth decay as your enamel may be weaker. You’ll also find that some people have less calcium in the teeth, this is a birth defect and won’t be visible when you’re young.
Other than this the main factor deciding who has tooth decay is diet and how well you adhere to a cleaning schedule. Avoiding excessive amounts of sugar in your food and making sure you brush your teeth daily will help to prevent tooth decay from occurring.
It’s worth noting that babies and toddlers who drink from bottles have a higher risk of tooth decay. This is because they take longer to drink from a bottle and this increases their exposure to sugar.
Other risk factors that increase the chances of you getting tooth decay include a lack of saliva. This can happen as a side-effect of medicines. IF it does you’ll want to sip some water regularly to keep your mouth lubricated.
Age can also increase the risk of tooth decay simply because the enamel is worn and receding gums make it easier for bacteria to get into the bottom part of your teeth.
How To Tell You Have Tooth Decay
A regular dental check-up will help you to spot dental decay early and do something about it. Other symptoms that suggest you have tooth decay developing are tooth sensitivity, particularly to hot and cold items. This tells you the enamel is wearing away.
Alongside this, a white stain or even a brown stain on your tooth can suggest an issue. The biggest clue is when you develop a toothache. This means the decay has progressed and your roots are being affected. You need prompt action to prevent an abscess and tooth loss.
Treating Tooth Decay
Your dentist will advise you regarding the best treatment option for your tooth decay. If the enamel is just damaged then fluoride treatments can help your body to repair the damage.
When the decay has progressed and is through the enamel it will be eating through the dentin. In this instance, your dentist will remove the bacteria and fill the cavity. This is a standard filling and will strengthen the tooth.
Should the decay have spread further and be affecting the root then your dentist is likely to suggest root canal. This is no longer a painful treatment and involves cleaning the tooth and root before rebuilding it. In some cases, you’ll need a crown or bridge over the top of the tooth.
The final option, and one which dentists only use in extreme situations, is to extract the tooth. It’s becoming increasingly rare for this step to be needed but it’s still a possibility.
If you do have an extraction your dentist will recommend you have an implant to prevent the other teeth from moving. If you don’t the moving teeth can cause further issues and potentially more tooth loss.
The Bottom Line
The key fact to remember this that tooth decay can happen, even if you generally have strong teeth and brush daily. That’s why you need to have regular dental checkups. Your dentist will inspect your teeth, give them an extra clean, and catch any issues early, before they become a bigger problem.
If you haven’t got a dental appointment booked then you should book one today! You only get one set of adult teeth but there is no reason that these can’t last a lifetime. You just need to show them a little care and attention.
By Jesse Huges