Tooth Decay Prevention

What is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is caused by the destruction of the tooth enamel, which is the hard, outer layer of the teeth and also the underlying layer dentin. It is a common problem in children, teens and adults.

What is the main cause of tooth decay?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria, which constantly forms on the teeth. When we eat or drink foods containing refined sugars, the bacteria in plaque produces some acids which can damage the tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with the teeth and over time, the enamel starts breaking down. This decaying of teeth results in cavities.

What causes Cavities?

Cavities are more common in children, but changes due to aging cause cavities in adults too. Recession of the gums away from the teeth, along with an increased incidence of gum disease, exposes the roots of the teeth to plaque. Teeth roots are covered with a tissue softer than enamel called cementum. They are more sensitive to touch, hot, cold and more susceptible to decay. Tooth-root decay is very common for people over age 50.

Decay around the fillings is also common for older adult. Many older adults who did not get the benefits of using fluoride toothpaste and preventive dental care when they were young, usually ends up with a number of dental fillings. Over the years, these fillings weaken and tend to rupture around the edges making easy for bacterial accumulation causing acid to build up which leads to decay.

Tooth Decay Signs & Symptoms

Tooth Decay symptoms include:

  • Toothache
  • Sensitivity to sweet, hot and cold foods or drinks
  • Pain when biting or chewing

Can Tooth Decay Be Reversed?

  • Brush twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride.
  • Clean between the teeth with floss or interdental cleaner at least once a day.
  • Eat nutritious and balanced meals and avoid sugary drinks and foods.
  • Increase consumption of dairy products like cheese, yoghurt etc.
  • If you can't brush after a meal, rinse your mouth thoroughly with water.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Pregnant and lactating women should take calcium supplements.
  • Regular dental checkups help in screening and preventing tooth decay at an earlier stage.
  • Check with your dentist on the use of fluoride supplement, which helps in strengthening the tooth.
  • Use dental sealants, which is a plastic protective coating, by applying them on to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from decay.
  • Visit your dentist for professional cleanings of the tooth.

Can tooth decay be treated?

Cavities are formed mainly due to lack of oral care and unhealthy food habits. Dentists can advice practising preventive measures to reduce the risk of tooth decay.

There are no symptoms associated with the early stages of cavity formation, hence, seeing a dentist once or twice a year for examination is highly recommended. It is very important to detect spots and stop them before they advance to cavity formation. If there is tooth pain or sensitivity, consult a dentist immediately.



Authored By Dr Sanjay N - Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopaedics, Bangalore

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