You must know that a cavity is a hole in the tooth. Did you know that this process takes place over time? Did you know that the process can even be interrupted and sometimes even reversed? This articles tells you everything you need to know about tooth decay.
What Is Inside Our Mouth?
Our mouths have hundreds of different types of bacteria living on our gums, teeth tongue and other places. Some of these are good bacteria whereas the others are bad. The bad ones play a role in the process of tooth decay. Bacteria use sugars to make acids; these acids eat away at the tooth hence, causing decay.
What goes on inside our mouths all day?
All day long, there is a tug of war happening inside the mouth. On one team there is plaque – a colourless sticky film of bacteria plus drinks and foods which contain sugars, starch, carbs etc. The bacteria use these sugars, starch and carbs to produce acid which begins to eat away at the enamel (outer surface of teeth). The other team are the components in our saliva – minerals such as phosphate and calcium plus fluoride from our paste, water and other substances. What this team does is supplies minerals to the enamel which it needs to repair itself especially at the time that’s it under attack by bacteria.
Before digging deeper, let’s first see the difference between tooth decay and cavity.
The primary stage of a cavity is tooth decay. At this point, intervention is possible. Cavity is a process which has already started and can affect the tooth down to its pulp.
Process of tooth decay
- Early tooth decay – At this stage, the decay starts from the enamel and you will barely feel any discomfort or pain. Due to lack of pain and discomfort and no visual damage, it’s difficult to point out that your tooth is beginning to decay. It’s like a silent attack.
By keeping the intake of sugary foods, sticky foods, acidic foods etc. to a minimum, plaque too is controlled. In turn, the production of acid is reduced which slows down decay.
- Dentin damage – If the enamel gets weakened, the chances of bacteria spreading into the dentin are high. Over time, the dentin gets weak and this causes sensitivity to cold, hot, sour or sweet food.
The best way to avoid this is by protecting your enamel. Go back to make you don’t let step one occur.
- Decay makes its way to the pulp – When the pulp gets involved, things get painful. A cavity is visible in the tooth and the pain can be extreme. The pulp can get infected by the bacteria leading to the tooth becoming necrotic. Sometimes, the infection can spread to surrounding tissues which leads to the formation of an abscess.
What’s the treatment?
The treatment for a cavity depends on the stage it is at. During the early stages, simple techniques can be applied to cure the damage. If the damage has reached the next level then you might need a filling. If you have a large cavity in the pulp, things might be slightly different. It may have reached a point where the process cannot be reversed and too far to fix. The only way out is a root canal or an extraction. These are few basics; your dentist can determine the best treatment for you.
Preventing the Tooth Decay Process
Nobody wants to undergo an extraction or root canal. Fortunately, you can easily prevent ever needing either one – taking care of your teeth on a daily basis helps you fight cavities even before they begin. To keep cavities at bay, here are few basic tips:
- Brush twice a day
- Prevent your mouth from drying up
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks
- Floss regularly
- Drink plenty of water
- Visit the dentist regularly
To know more on taking care of your teeth click here
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Image: Vkool.com, www.nidcr.nih.gov