Understanding Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is and ongoing battle. We gain our first adult teeth as very young children and these teeth remain with us until we die.
Everything You Need to Know about Tooth Decay
Understanding and knowing how to keep them healthy and in good condition is an essential part of our health and wellbeing plan.
Our guide describing everything you need to know about tooth decay will help you to look after your teeth and reduce the risk of them becoming infected and causing ongoing health problems as you grow older.
What Causes Decay?
Our mouths naturally contain bacteria that can both benefit us and harm us. Our saliva and good oral hygiene maintain the balance in our mouths and prevent harmful bacteria from entering our teeth and causing us problems.
Occasionally however, when the protective covering on our teeth surface breaks down, or if we have a cut or scratch in our gums, the harmful bacteria can rapidly increase in numbers and this leads to infection and decay.
Decay is a slow process that occurs over time. We may barely notice it until it has progressed to the painful stage.
At this stage there is usually nerve involvement and a dentist is required to both repair the outer enamel and to remove the infection from the inner part of the tooth.
Sometimes, if the nerves are also involved, a complete removal of the nerve may be important to help keep the tooth intact and in place.
Types of Decay
The type of decay present will determine the speed of decay occurring in a tooth. Smooth decay is the name given to the slowest form of decay, which may present as a small white spot on the outer enamel covering of the tooth.
This is more prevalent in the front teeth which are mainly used for biting into food. Over time, if the teeth are not flossed or cleaned correctly not only on the surface of the tooth but between the teeth, there will be a gradual break down of the tooth surface.
A faster progression of decay occurs when the top of the tooth is involved. This area is the fissure or pit that is best seen in the molars which are located in the back of the mouth.
These teeth are responsible for chewing food and often food particles are trapped in the fissures and provide a perfect place for the build-up of acid , bacteria and plaque if not cleaned properly.
Prevention of Decay
Regular visits to the dentist and attention to good oral hygiene will help prevent the formation of the different types of decay.
Cleaning the teeth for three minutes at least twice a day using a fluoride tooth paste and reducing the amount of sweet, sticky foods that remain on the surface of the teeth will assist in slowing the development of decay between visits.
Flossing between the teeth will remove plaque and food particles trapped between teeth.
As these simple techniques become part of our daily hygiene routine, we reduce the incidence of the development of tooth decay and other ongoing health problems.
Understanding Tooth Decay
Published February 1, 2012