Tooth decay: Causes and treatment

Tooth decay is common disease for children, teenagers and adults. Tooth decay brings about negative effects on almost all life aspects such as social life, appetite, dental and general health. When the tooth decay gets deeper inside the tooth structure, the tooth is damaged more severely. Tooth decay first destroys the enamel, then invades into the dentin. If left untreated, the harmful bacteria keeps going deeper into the central dental pulp.

Tooth decay causes

Tooth decay starts when bacteria in the plaque feeds on sugars.

Continual dental plaque formation on teeth surface occuring due to daily food and drink consumption is primary cause of tooth decay. Even when you are extremely careful about oral hygiene practice, there is possibility that your teeth present with tooth decay because of hard-to-reach areas in your mouth. Tooth decay starts when bacteria in the plaque feeds on sugars. This combination produces acids that attack the tooth enamel causing decay.

Tooth decay is actually the result of dietary choices and oral hygiene practices

Tooth decay symptoms

The signs and symptoms of cavities vary, depending on their extent and location.

The signs and symptoms of cavities vary, depending on their extent and location.

Stage 1: When tooth cavity is just beginning, symptoms are not clear at all.

  • Small white spots appear on the surface of the tooth due to tooth demineralization
  • Patients may experience light pain or sensitivity which are not easily recognized. The symptoms may go unnoticed without dental checkup

Stage 2:

  • Heavy discoloration of the tooth with brown, black staining
  • The decay attacking the enamel may result in visible minor or medium-sized hole on your tooth. Sometimes the decay state may be more severe than its look on the surface. Without treatment, these holes can grow larger over time and may even destroy the whole tooth. 
  • Food easily get lodged in cavity hole
  • Weakened enamel leads to sensitivity when eating or drinking hot and cold
  • Toothache could be continuous or an occasional sharp pain

Stage 3: If the tooth decay is left untreated, it will continue destroy deeper layer of the tooth until it gets to dental nerve. In this advanced stage, pus formation inadvertently kills the blood vessels and nerves in the tooth. Patients may experience constant excruciating pain.

Tooth decay treatment

Treatment of tooth decay depends on how advanced it is. However, if you experience a toothache or mouth pain, see your dentist as soon as possible. The earlier the tooth decay is discovered, the easier the treatment is. Thorough check up helps the dentist diagnose to offer right treatment to save your tooth

  • For early-stage tooth decay – fluoride gel is applied on the area to make a protective coat, which helps strengthen the enamel
  • When cavity hole is formed – By closing off entrances where bacteria can enter, a filling also helps prevent further decay
  • When bacteria and plaque continue their destructive march through the tooth until the dental pulp, pulp is inflamed – root canal treatment is indicated to remove infected tissue, then the tooth is filled with filling material (gutta percha)
  • In late stage when the tooth decay go on to affect the tissue surrounding the tooth: ligaments, bone and gum, an abscessed tooth is the worst scenario – The tooth can not be restored. The dentist has to extract the tooth because there are no means of saving the tooth.

Why should tooth decay be treated early?

Tooth is the only part of the body that can not repair itself. Only early treatment can reverse the tooth decay progression. When the decay starts reaching the dentin, the tooth damage is irreversible. Tooth decay doesn’t recover itself, and what starts out as a minor problem can quickly become more severe if the decay continue its destructive march through the tooth to deeper layers (enamel, dentin and dental pulp)

Prevention

The fight against tooth decay is not simple. Any caries treatment is to repair, not to reverse the cavities, which indicates that whenever your teeth are decayed, there is no complete turning back to their first healthy state. That’s why prevention is the best thing you should do to keep your smile in good health.

  • Being diligent and consistent in oral care is the most effective way to avoid cavities. Remember to brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day with interdental brush or dental floss. Interdent is  susceptible to dental caries
Interdental spaces are most likely to get cavity
  • Smart dietary choices with more vitamins and minerals. Drink water. Limit sugar intake
  • You should discuss with your dentist about supplementary fluoride to strengthen your tooth enamel or sealant filling to prevent cavity on chewing surface
  • Regular visit with your dentist at least twice a year for checkup and professional cleaning