Tooth Decay: Causes and How to Stay Cavity-Free - Complete Smiles


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A smile that looks great is important for both dental and overall well-being. Poor oral health can increase the risk of tooth decay, and it can lead to other oral health problems, such as gum disease and bad breath. Tooth decay is a serious yet preventable illness that causes tooth destruction and cavities. It is mostly referred to as a “silent disease” since it can progress without any visible symptoms in the early stages.

When bacteria in the mouth break down food particles, plaque forms. Plaque is an acidic, sticky coating that coats the teeth. These acids eat away at the enamel of the teeth, causing it to decay and deteriorate.  As a result of this, you may feel sensitive, painful, and difficult to chew.

Tooth decay can result in tooth loss in severe circumstances. It is widespread in children, adolescents, and older adults, and it is frequently caused by sugary foods and drinks and poor oral hygiene.

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is a process that damages the hard outer layer of the tooth (enamel). It is caused by bacteria in the mouth that produce acid when they feed on sugar and starches. Tooth decay can lead to cavities (dental caries), which are holes in the teeth. If left untreated, cavities can lead to cause pain, infection, and even tooth loss

Symptoms of Tooth Decay

In the early stages of tooth decay may not produce any symptoms. However, as the decay progresses, you may experience the following symptoms

  • Intolerance to hot, cold, and sweet foods and beverages
  • Toothache
  • Visible holes and cavities in teeth
  • Brown or black staining on teeth
  • Bad breath


Causes of Tooth Decay

Anyone can develop tooth decay, but some people are at higher risk than others. Causes for tooth decay include:

  1. Bacterial Action: The mouth is home to numerous types of bacteria. Some bacteria convert sugars and carbohydrates from the food you consume into acids. These acids, in turn, erode the enamel of your teeth over time
  2. Poor Oral Hygiene: Inadequate brushing and flossing can cause plaque (a sticky film of bacteria) to build up on your teeth. This plaque is even harder than tartar, which is more difficult to remove and provides an environment for tooth decay.
  3. Dietary Habits: A diet high in sugary and starchy foods and drinks can accelerate the decay process. Sugar serves as a primary energy source for bacteria that produce the acid responsible for enamel erosion.
  4. Dry Mouth (Xerostomia): Saliva plays an important role in neutralising the acid in the mouth and helping to remineralise the teeth. The condition leads to a dry mouth, such as medication or certain medical conditions. Eventually, increases the potential risk of tooth decay.

Development of the Tooth Decay

Tooth decays develop in stages;

  1. Plaque Formation: Plaque is the sticky film that forms on the teeth when food particles and bacteria mix with saliva.
  2. Acid Production: Bacteria in the plaque produce acids that attack the tooth’s enamel.
  3. Demineralisation: The acids in plaque dissolve the minerals in the tooth’s enamel, creating a white spot.
  4. Cavity Formation: If the demineralisation process continues, the cavity will form on the enamel layer.
  5. Dentin Decay: Dentin is the layer of your teeth directly beneath the enamel. As a result, once plaque and germs reach this layer, cavities grow more quickly.
  6. Pulp Damage: Your tooth pulp is the innermost layer of the tooth. When cavities reach the pulp, you may feel pain. You might experience redness and swelling in the gums.
  7. Abcessed Tooth: If left untreated, a deep cavity can cause infection. This results in a pocket of pus that forms at the tip of the root. You might experience pain in the neck, and jaw or develop facial swelling. In rare cases, infection might spread into the brain.

Treatment of Tooth Decay

The treatment for tooth decay will be determined by the severity of the decay. If the decay is in the early stages, the dentist may be able to reverse it with fluoride treatments or sealants. However, if the decay is more advanced then the dentist might for further treatment options;

  • Fillings: When decay causes cavities, the damaged area is cleansed, and a dental filling is placed to restore the structure and function of your tooth.
  • Crowns: If the decay is severe and has weakened your tooth, then the dentist may recommend a dental crown to provide additional support and protection.
  • Root Canal Therapy: When decay reaches the pulp (the innermost part of your tooth). The dentist may recommend a root canal to remove the infected tissue and save your tooth.
  • Extraction: In severe decay cases when the tooth cannot be repaired, then extraction may be the only alternative. This is followed by options for replacing the missing tooth, such as dental implants or bridges, which can be done precisely by a specialist dentist.


Preventing Tooth Decay Tips

Here are some other tooth decay prevention tips:

  • Use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash: Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and makes it more resistant to acid attacks, reducing the risk of tooth decay.
  • Consume a well-balanced diet: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and avoid sugary foods and drinks.
  • Drink enough water: Water keeps your mouth moist and helps to wipe away plaque and acids.
  • See your dentist regularly: Get regular dental visits and cleanings to detect and treat tooth decay as early as possible.


For Complete Healthy Smile

Tooth decay is a preventable ailment that can be avoided by practising good oral hygiene and visiting the dentist regularly. You can keep your smile healthy and vibrant for years to come by recognising the reasons for it and taking suitable preventive steps. Remember that early intervention can make all the difference in preventing decay and keeping your oral health.

If you have any concerns about tooth decay, please schedule a free appointment with the Complete Smiles Dental Clinic. We offer a variety of restorative and preventive dentistry services to help you keep your teeth healthy and strong.

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