Tooth decay is experienced by millions of people all over the world. This issue is almost as common as the common cold.
Tooth decay refers to the damage to the teeth. When the protective covering of the teeth which is the dental enamel is eroded, the core structure of the teeth gets damaged. The decay will lead to a loss of structure and function of the teeth. Decay can set in the teeth through numerous means and it is affected by various factors such as personal oral hygiene, lifestyle, diseases, medications, and food habits.
It is very important to take notice of the initial signs and symptoms of tooth decay and take immediate steps to end it.
Symptoms of tooth decay
Knowing the symptoms of decay is helpful as one can take proactive measures and arrest them. These signs can be notified much earlier if there is regular dental consultation.
Dentists will be able to spot the onset of the decay and help guide on correcting them before they progress. White spots are seen in some as one of the first signs- this usually indicates loss of minerals. Another symptom seen is toothache, but this will be seen if there is tooth decay. The core of the tooth is affected and this will cause tooth ache. This pain can be continuous and not only while chewing.
A change of colour of the teeth is also noticed – the teeth will turn darker or there will be spots on the teeth and is often accompanied by bad breath. The infection in the teeth results in teeth sensitivity experienced. As the decay progresses, one will notice teeth sensitivity increases in frequency and the discomfort and pain staying on for a long time after the meal is over.
Causes of tooth decay
Tooth decay can be arrested to a great extent if the causes are known.
Many people have less than required personal oral hygiene habits and this contributes to tooth decay. When brushing and flossing are not done properly, plaque or tartar formation is seen at the base of the teeth. This builds up and then works its way into the teeth and also infects the gum tissues and brings in decay in the teeth.
If no steps are taken to arrest the preliminary decay, then the neighbouring teeth are also affected leading to the loss of more than one tooth. Plaque forms in the teeth when a lot of sugary food are consumed.
The starchy and sugary food sticks to the teeth and stays there. Bacteria in the mouth are attracted to these food particles and work on them and create plaque. The acid that is released by the bacterial action can erode the dental enamel and bring in decay.
The position of the teeth also affects the decay process. It is often seen in the back of the mouth. Those teeth are not easily visible and if decay or symptoms of decay appear, then it is easily overlooked. In the meantime, decay will progress in the mouth. Dental consultations will help to control this, dentists will examine the dental health during consultations and they will be able to assess the condition of each tooth and provide a remedy when needed.
Another factor that aids in tooth decay is less saliva secretion. When there is less saliva in the mouth, the teeth become dry and this can be the leading cause of decay. Food habits especially in the case of children, who often consume milk and juices that are high in sugar content will cause decay more so if they are not cleaned properly. This is also the same in the case of adults who consume large amounts of sugary fizzy drinks or snacks and there is no proper cleaning of the mouth after every meal.
Treatment options for tooth decay
Tooth decay is treated depending on the extent of damage that has happened to the teeth. This will vary from person to person and dentists will recommend the type of treatment suited.
If there are dental cavities, then dentists will suggest fillings. The cavity is cleaned and the teeth is saved teeth using teeth filling.
If the decay has progressed and treatment is sought at that time, then a root canal will help. In this method, the core of the teeth where the nerve endings are present is affected. The core of the tooth is cleaned and then filled and the teeth are repaired. Dental crowns are also placed on decayed teeth to complete the process.
In situations where the teeth cannot be saved, then teeth extraction will be the recommendation. In this procedure the decayed teeth are removed. This will help stop the spread of the decay to the neighbouring teeth and oral and dental health is restored.
How can decay be prevented?
Tooth decay is preventable and if a proper routine of brushing and flossing teeth is followed, plaque and tartar formation can be prevented to a large extent.
Decay sets in due to sugary food staying in the mouth, if the quantity of sugary food and drinks is reduced then the chances of decay can be reduced. After each meal, if the mouth is rinsed with water or with any mouth rinses available in the market the food particles can be washed away and the mouth will be clean.
There are also rinses and toothpaste with fluoride in it. This ingredient will help provide extra support to the dental enamel.
Some dentists suggest using dental sealants to fight tooth decay. Food usually gets stuck in the grooves of the teeth and they will attract bacterial action and cause decay. Sealants are a protective covering that is applied over these grooves and the food cannot remain stuck as they are plastic coating and they will slip away.
If decay is caused due to medications, then there are antibacterial treatments available that will help to cut down harmful bacteria. One of the sure methods that will help in tooth decay is regular dental consultations that will help to stop dental decay early.