Tooth decay is a disorder that is second in prevalence only to the common cold, which affects people of all ages, from babies to the elderly. It is characterised by break down of the enamel surface of the tooth and can result in the inner layer of tooth(dentine) being eaten away.
How Does Tooth Decay Occur?
Tooth decay is a bacterial process controlled by tiny bacteria that house themselves in dental plaque connected to the surface of the tooth. The first stage of tooth decay occurs when the bacteria make acids which are released onto the surface of the tooth, and results in softening of the outer layer (enamel) of the tooth.
In order to release acid, bacteria need to feed on sugar, found in the mouth when you eat or drink foods that contain different types of sugar. This acts as a feeding process that allows the bacteria to soften and eat away the tooth surface, resulting in a hole or cavity, which we know as tooth decay.
What Can Happen If I Get Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay can happen very slowly over months to years, or can move quite rapidly, depending on the person and situation.
As the outer layer of the tooth gets eaten away, bacteria reaches the inner dentine layer of the tooth, which it can infect and eat away at a much faster rate. If this is allowed to continue, the bacteria can reach in the inner nerve of the tooth, resulting in an infection to the inner tooth called a pulpitis.
Can Tooth Decay Be Treated?
Treatments of tooth decay will vary depending on the severity and condition of the tooth. In the very early stages it may be reversed with fluoride application and oral hygiene, or in the advanced stages it may require root canal therapy or extraction of the tooth.
The most common treatment tooth decay is a dental filling. This is where the dentist will remove the infected and rotten tooth structure and restore it with a filling material.
At Argyle St Family Dental we only use white composite fillings that look and feel like natural tooth structure, so that you won’t even notice that the filling is there after the treatment.
Can I Prevent Tooth Decay From Happening
Tooth decay is in over 90% of situations completely preventable. This means that by adopting simple, lifestyle habits, you can greatly reduce your risk suffering from tooth decay.
The main factors to preventing tooth decay are.
- Oral Hygiene
Removing plaque from the tooth surfaces in and underneath your gums is essential in preventing bacteria from housing itself and damaging your tooth enamel. By brushing twice a day with a soft brush and flossing at least once a day you can prevent plaque build up in your mouth. At your Argyle St Family Dentist we will show you exactly how to brush and floss in order to prevent tooth decay.
It’s important to eat a healthy balanced diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetables. Eating three standard meals a day and reducing snacking is important in reducing acid attacks on your teeth. Sugary snacks or drinks such as biscuits or energy drinks are especially highly linked to tooth decay. Water consumption is also especially important as it can help cleanse your mouth.
- Regular Dental Examinations
Dental examinations provide the dentist with a clear picture of exactly what is going on in your mouth. Often tooth decay can begin on hidden surfaces that you may not see or feel until it has progressed and moved deeper into the tooth. X-rays show the surfaces between your teeth and are a great tool that we will use in order to keep a close eye on all the structures in your mouth.