The development of tooth decay
Many think that a propensity towards suffering from tooth decay is hereditary, but it can be related to environmental and lifestyle factors and have no genetic basis whatsoever. The potential development of tooth decay depends on the quality of food eaten. Sugar and carbohydrate heavy meals are more likely to result in tooth decay sooner rather than later.
The strength of the “attack” on teeth depends on five factors:
Plaque is a sticky, colourless deposit full of bacteria. Saliva and leftover particles of food and drink together create deposits on teeth and in the gaps where the teeth and gums meet.
A high level of carbohydrates renders plaque sticky, so it adheres to the surface of the teeth quite easily and in areas between the teeth which are difficult to reach.
Leftover food in the mouth
Food containing carbohydrates should remain a part of our daily diet as our body needs them. Risks can be reduced and eliminated by means of proper oral hygiene care. Teeth need to be very carefully brushed after eating sticky food, as the longer carbohydrates spend in the mouth the more damage they will cause.
Frequency of eating
The more carbohydrates we eat, the greater the chance of developing tooth decay. The most common and harmful habit in this regard is “snacking”, as we cannot brush our teeth after every single snack. In order to maintain healthy teeth a daily allowance of 4-5 snacks is permissible, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that snacks include drinking sweet tea, coffee as well as other drinks! It is important to brush your teeth after every main meal, but if you don’t have the opportunity to do so you should rinse with water to wash away any leftover food stuck on your teeth.
The absence of protective measures
Some people develop tooth decay sooner than others. Vitamins play an important role in this regard, especially before teeth first appear. This is why it’s important for pregnant women to consume sufficient amounts of vitamins A & D, as well as Calcium and Fluorine as these will be established in the tooth enamel in adulthood, with saliva supplying areas eroded by acids. Saliva, in sufficient quantities, neutralizes the acid due to its slight alkaline content and can compensate against bacterial activity.
So essentially, the main cause of tooth decay is bacteria that settle on the neck of teeth.
Where does tooth decay occur?
The decay of grooves on the chewing surface
This develops primarily on the grooves of teeth but can reach dentine as well, leading to total destruction of the tooth through rot.
Decay on a smooth surface
The most common location is where teeth both face and touch each other due to extensive plaque which has settled in those areas; there is no means of self-cleansing and the only way to render these areas plaque free is to use a dental floss or an interdental brush.
Root decay attacks the dentine itself. As the gum recedes the dentine, which is less resistant to decay, appears at the surface. Root decay has now become an everyday issue with adults and its incidence is becoming more and more common. A possible reason for this is that more and more adults are able to keep their natural teeth until they reach old age, so decay remains for longer.
Symptoms of tooth decay:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Tooth pain
- White stains on the enamel
- Greyish, brownish stains on deep grooves of the tooth
- Greyish, brownish stains in the area between two teeth
The stages and consequences of tooth decay
In the case of decay of the grooves on the surface of the teeth, the first sign of the problem is a white stain that appears between the grooves. This is a sign of initial damage to the enamel that subsequently expands to the edge of the enamel and dentine. This white stain may turn brown, but the damage to the enamel may be corrected if minerals are absorbed by the enamel.
If the damage isn’t corrected the decay may corrode the dentine beneath the enamel; as dentine is a softer material than enamel, the decay damages the teeth under the enamel.
As decay spreads in the dentine larger areas of the enamel remain vulnerable and break, causing open decay, a cavity in the tooth that becomes sensitive to sensations of hot, cold and sweet.
Non-professionals can also easily recognize signs of tooth decay. It is simply not worth delaying treatment as the more established and extensive the decay is, the more unpleasant and protracted restoration will be.
There are cases when the decayed tooth cannot be restored and an extraction is necessary. The extracted tooth needs to be replaced as soon as possible as the neighbouring teeth can lean and the tooth opposite the extracted area starts to “grow out” from the row, causing chewing and digestion problems. There exist multiple methods of tooth replacement from amongst which anyone can choose the one that suits them best.
Prevention - How can we prevent this from happening?
Unfortunately, tooth decay is not painful in itself and often remains completely symptomless for quite a long time; if this weren’t the case we would visit a dentist in good time. Warning signs include sensitivity due to open dentine canals as a result of enamel damage. After eating sweets and sugar the patient feels pain because of increased osmotic pressure.
Pay attention to your eating habits, most especially to what kinds of food you eat.
You can do a lot to keep your teeth healthy with the right kind of diet.
Eat only a few sweets, amongst which chocolate is the best choice as the cocoa butter covers the teeth and protects them to a certain extent from acids.
Sticky foods are harmful to teeth. Overcooked and mashed food encourage you to chew less so the cleaning process is compromised. Consume fewer acidic foods and drinks if possible. Eat sweets and drink still-mineral water after main meals. As for fruit, only eat those low in sugar and acid, and enjoy after the main meal.
- use mouthwash, tongue cleaner
- visit a dentist regularly
- take advantage of modern medical science: with groove closing or ozone therapy early tooth decay can be prevented and even eliminated
If you have any problems with your teeth, Tibor Dental can sort it out. Contact us for a consultation or you can just simply call us to have a conversation about your dental situation.