Tooth decay is the process where the bacteria in your mouth create acid that will eat away at your tooth enamel. Enamel is the hard protective covering over the crown of each tooth. Below the enamel there is a much softer material called dentine and when this is eaten away by acids, it results in tooth decay and a cavity will develop.
If the tooth decay is not properly treated, it is likely to get more painful and larger thus causing the infection to reach the central part of your tooth which is called the pulp chamber. This contains nerves and blood supply to the tooth. This condition can be rather painful and can necessitate the extraction of the infected tooth or root canal treatment.
What causes Tooth Decay?
Plaque is created when there is a build-up of bacteria caused by everyday food particles.
The bacteria in plaque feed on carbohydrates and sugars found in foods thus creating acids.
This acidity leads to the mouth becoming more acidic after eating. During this time the tooth enamel becomes softer and certain essential minerals of the tooth are removed. Repeated exposure to acids can eventually wear away the enamel and also the underlying layer of dentine.
What are the symptoms of Tooth Decay?
- Early on there can be few symptoms of tooth decay.
- Toothache can occur if the cavity in the tooth becomes infected and the bacteria reaches the pulp
- Sensitivity when eating hot and cold foods
- Food trapping
Diagnosis and Treatment of Tooth Decay
- Examination of teeth for signs of cavities
- Dental x-rays to show hidden areas between each tooth
- Treatment will depend on the size and location of the cavity. At the dental gallery these will be discussed with you and options include:
- Fluoride treatment to harden the tooth if the cavity is not too deep
- Removal of tooth decay and filling the cavity
- If the decay has reached the pulp you may need root canal therapy followed by tooth restoration, either by filling or fitting a crown over the tooth.
- Finally, if the decay is too advanced, the tooth has to be extracted
How you can reduce the risk of tooth decay
It is important to remember that tooth decay can be prevented:
- Through Preventative Dental Care – This means having regular check-ups with your dentist at the dental gallery and having regular X-rays to identify hidden decay and getting your teeth professionally cleaned by our hygienist. Our oral health program provides practical advice on cleaning and flossing routines, so that as much plaque as possible can be removed by you at home.
- By changing your diet – Cut out snacking on sugary and carbohydrate rich foods in-between meals as they increase the acidity levels in the mouth for longer periods of time. Particularly avoid sticky snacks like sweet muesli bars and they hold the sugar in your mouth longer. Eat healthier options such as crunchy vegetables or cheese.
- Brush twice a day and floss once a day. However do not brush immediately after acidic foods or drinks, as you can wear away the softened enamel before saliva has had a chance to re-harden it.
- Proper breathing and drinking water to ensure your mouth is not dry and you have adequate amounts of saliva to protect your teeth.
- Limit highly acidic foods and drinks – Using a straw can reduce the contact of an acidic drink with your teeth.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste – Exposure to fluoride can help control the development of decay.
- Drink fluoridated water instead of sugary or acidic soft drinks.
To get a proper diagnosis for your tooth decay and treatment tailored for your needs book an appointment with our dentist at the dental gallery Point Cook today.