How to Assess Your Tooth Decay Risk
We have compiled this article on “How to Assess Your Tooth Decay Risk“. The reference links are at the bottom of the article.
Tooth decay is the cause of cavities, pain, tooth loss and infection. It is the main reason why people seek dental treatment such as fillings, root canal treatment, extractions, and other costly, complicated dental procedures. But here’s the good news: dental caries — the process that leads to tooth decay — is a preventable disease, and early dental caries can be reversed with early intervention.
When decay-causing bacteria come into contact with sugars and starches from foods and drinks, they form an acid. This acid can attack the tooth’s enamel causing it to lose minerals.
This can happen if you eat or drink often, especially foods and drinks containing sugar and starches. The repeated cycles of these “acid attacks” will cause the enamel to continue to lose minerals. Over time, the enamel is weakened and then destroyed, forming a cavity.
In early tooth decay, there are not usually any symptoms. As tooth decay advances, it can cause a toothache (tooth pain) or tooth sensitivity to sweets, hot, or cold. If the tooth becomes infected, an abscess, or pocket of pus, can form that can cause pain, facial swelling, and fever.
Tooth decay can be found during a regular dental check-up. Early tooth decay may look like a white spot on the tooth. If the decay is more advanced, it may appear as a darker spot or a hole in the tooth. The dentist can also check the teeth for soft or sticky areas or take an x-ray, which can show decay.
Dentists commonly treat cavities by filling them. A dentist will remove the decayed tooth tissue and then restore the tooth by filling it with a filling material.
There are several treatments for tooth decay and cavities. Which treatment you get depends on how bad the problem is:
If you have early tooth decay, a fluoride treatment can help the enamel to repair itself.
If you have a typical cavity, your dentist will remove the decayed tooth tissue and then restore the tooth by filling it with a filling material.
If the damage to the tooth and/or an infection spreads to the pulp (inside of the tooth), you might need a root canal. Your dentist will remove the decayed pulp and clean inside the tooth and root. The next step is to fill the tooth with a temporary filling. Then you will need to come back to get a permanent filling or a crown (a cover on the tooth).
Extraction (pulling the tooth)
In the most severe cases, when the damage to the pulp cannot be fixed, your dentist may pull the tooth. Your dentist will suggest that you get a bridge or implant to replace the missing tooth. Otherwise, the teeth next to the gap may move over and change your bite.
What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay (also known as dental caries or cavities) is a common diet-related disease that leads to the loss of minerals from adult and baby teeth. In its early stages it can appear as a white or dark spot on the tooth, but as more mineral is lost a cavity or hole may appear.
Many bacteria live in your mouth and on your teeth in the dental plaque (food build up around teeth). These bacteria use the sugars in the food you eat as the energy they need to live.
When turning the sugar into energy, the bacteria in your mouth create acid as a waste product. This acid dissolves the crystals of your teeth and causes mineral loss, which can lead to signs of tooth decay such as white spots and cavities.
Your saliva works to prevent tooth decay from occurring. It washes sugar out of your mouth and into your stomach, stops acid from causing damage, fights bacteria and can repair the early stages of tooth decay by repairing tooth minerals.
If the amount of acid from the bacteria on your teeth outweighs the protective effect of your saliva, then tooth decay will occur.
Further mineral loss may lead to the cavity going into the center of the tooth (the pulp), which may lead to toothache.
Tooth decay occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches), such as bread, cereals, milk, soda, fruits, cakes, or candy are left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth digest these foods, turning them into acids. The bacteria, acid, food debris, and saliva combine to form plaque, which clings to the teeth. The acids in plaque dissolve the enamel surface of the teeth, creating holes in the teeth called cavities.
To Prevent Tooth Decay:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride-containing toothpaste. Preferably, brush after each meal and especially before going to bed.
- Clean between your teeth daily with dental floss or interdental cleaners, such as the Oral-B Interdental Brush, Reach Stim-U-Dent or Sulcabrush.
- Rinse daily with a fluoride-containing mouthwash. Some rinses also have antiseptic ingredients to help kill bacteria that cause plaque.
- Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacks. Avoid carbohydrates such as candy, pretzels and chips, which can remain on the tooth’s surface. If sticky foods are eaten, brush your teeth soon afterward.
- Check with your dentist about using supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth.
- Ask your dentist about dental sealants (a plastic protective coating) applied to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth (molars) to protect them from decay.
- Drink fluoridated water. At least a pint of fluoridated water each day is needed to protect children from tooth decay.
- Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.
Researchers are developing new means to prevent tooth decay. One study found that a chewing gum that contains the sweetener xylitol temporarily retarded the growth of bacteria that cause tooth decay. In addition, several materials that slowly release fluoride over time, which will help prevent further decay, are being explored.
These materials would be placed between teeth or in pits and fissures of teeth. Toothpaste and mouth rinses that can reverse and “heal” early cavities are also being studied.
Thank you for reading this article, and check back frequently for other dental health articles. Should you have any questions, please contact Apple Tree Dental today!
Article compiled by Apple Tree Dental
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