Tooth decay is a cavity or hole which appears in a tooth. It is created by natural bacteria which live in your mouth. However, the real cause of a cavity is actually the acid produced by the bacteria. This natural buildup of acid will slowly dissolve the protective enamel on your teeth and continue to eat into the underlying structure which is much less resistant. Left untreated, tooth decay can cause infection, a lot of pain and eventually the tooth may need to be removed. The decaying process caused by the bacterial acid is not generally noticeable at first but will steadily progress to deeper layers of the tooth and eventually attack the pulp which contains highly sensitive nerves and blood vessels.
1. Oral hygiene
If you don’t take care of your teeth by regularly brushing and flossing, then tooth decay becomes inevitable as the bacteria in your mouth build up and release their destructive acid. In addition, brushing and flossing your teeth is not sufficient. Lightly brushing your tongue and gums is also recommended. Good oral hygiene means cleaning your teeth at least twice a day but it is a good practice to brush after every meal whenever possible. Cleaning your teeth takes only a few minutes – prevention is less troubling and less expensive than the cure. Here are 5 top tips for good oral hygiene.
2. Deep tooth crevices & weak enamel
When a person has issues with the enamel on their teeth, deep crevices in their teeth can appear. The deep crevices are the perfect home for bacteria and plaque to grow. For patients with deep tooth crevices, dental sealants are normally used to stop bacteria from entering. Dental sealants are only used on decay-free teeth to prevent tooth decay. Once tooth decay is present, other treatment is needed.
3. Poor nutrition
We all know that eating or drinking items which contain too much sugar is bad for us in many ways. There is no doubt that avoiding foods which are high in sugar, carbohydrates and acid is the best way to avoid tooth decay. In fact sodas and many juices are some of the worst culprits. A simple search on youtube will demonstrate what happens to a tooth if you leave it in a soda. It is not a pleasant sight.
i) Sugary foods
Foods which contain high concentrations of sugar give bacteria the energy they need to multiply and start producing acids which end up covering your teeth. This can occur in only a few seconds. It’s why dentists recommend cleaning your teeth after each meal. This removes the acid before it has time to attack your teeth. Sugary foods to avoid or minimize are not just the obvious “candy” but many foods nowadays contain “hidden sugars.” Looking at the sugar content in the food you buy is not such a bad idea.
ii) Acidic foods & drinks
Foods and drinks like soda which contain acid will attack the enamel on your teeth. It is not just sodas and juices but even common food like bread and fish contain acids. In this case it is not the bacteria feeding off the sugar but the acid they already contain – simple cleaning after every mea is again the best advice.
4. Dry mouth problems
Saliva in the mouth inhibits the growth of plaque. People with dry mouth conditions where saliva is missing or reduced can be more likely to suffer from tooth decay. Dry mouth can be genetically inherited, a symptom of diabetes or caused by medications. Dentists recognize dry mouth issues and will provide advice on how best to treat it.
5. Tooth grinding
Unaware, many people grind their teeth together in their sleep or when they are under stress. Grinding can strip away the outer layer of tooth enamel, creating a weakness which is easier for the acid to exploit. A bite guard or shield also known as a night guard can be used to prevent your teeth grinding together while sleeping or if you are stressed.
People can have a greater disadvantage for suffering from tooth decay because they have inherited it from their parents. Inheriting deep tooth crevices and problems with tooth enamel can lead to a greater susceptibility to tooth decay.
Cavities become more common as you get older. Some reasons for this are prescription medications creating a dry mouth condition, shrinkage of gums and the accumulation of poor oral hygiene over the years.
In all cases, dentists recommend that the best way to minimize the likelihood of tooth decay is to brush and floss your teeth regularly.
Regular check-ups at your dentist are also necessary. Treatment to catch tooth decay early is a very important measure to avoid more extensive treatments such as fillings and the need for tooth extractions. A full dental examination is also an opportunity to check for gum disease and oral cancer.