Tooth Decay | Causes, Symptoms and Treatment | The Facts About Dental Caries
Tooth decay has become a controversial subject. Some people believe that fluoride is the solution, while others think it’s dangerous.
It is a common dental problem that affects people of all ages. Teeth are important for chewing and eating food and also protect our jawbone and help us speak correctly.
Despite what you’ve heard, there are facts about tooth decay and dental care to be aware of as well—information that should help make your decision-making process easier.
What is tooth decay / dental caries
Tooth decay, also known as dental caries, is the breakdown of tooth enamel. The loss of tooth enamel exposes the dentin layer which is more sensitive to acids and bacteria. This can lead to a number of complications, including inflammation around the tooth, tooth loss, and infection or abscess formation.
It can be caused by a number of factors, including diet and lifestyle choices, genetics, bacteria, sugar, and plaque.
The Importance of Your Mouth as an Ecosystem
The ecosystem of our mouths is a complex and delicate balance of bacteria. Some bacteria are beneficial, such as those that help us digest food. Other bacteria can be harmful, such as those that play a role in tooth decay. It is important to maintain the balance of healthy bacteria in our mouths by brushing and flossing regularly and seeing a dentist for checkups.
Teeth are made up of three layers: an outer hard layer (enamel), a middle softer layer (dentin), and an inner pulp cavity. The enamel contains acids that help dissolve food. The pulps in the front, back, top, and bottom of teeth are where the blood supply is closest to the surface so they can clean and digest food.
The saliva in your mouth helps to prevent tooth decay from occurring, by washing away sugar and fighting bacteria. In addition, saliva helps to replace lost minerals in the mouth. These minerals help to protect teeth from acid attack, which is one of the main causes of tooth decay.
In addition, dental plaque is constantly being formed and broken down by the sugar and starch content in our food. Most cavities in teeth form when decay breaks through the tooth’s surface layers (the dentin and enamel).
Tooth decay is a result of the acid produced from bacteria in the mouth. The bacteria use sugar to create acids, which then break down the tooth enamel. Once the enamel is gone, the dentin is exposed and will decay as well.
Tooth decay and gum disease
There are two main types of dental disease- tooth decay and gum disease. Tooth decay is the most common, and it can be prevented by practicing good oral hygiene. This includes brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing once a day, and using mouthwash. Gum disease is caused by plaque build-up on the teeth, which can lead to infection and inflammation of the gums. It is important to see your dentist for regular checkups so that any signs of gum disease can be treated early.
There are two main types of gum disease- gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the milder form, and it occurs when germs in the plaque infect the gums, causing them to become red and puffy and to bleed easily. In severe cases of gum disease the infection can spread to the supporting bone around the teeth and loosen them, and over time you may lose teeth.
If plaque is left on teeth for an extended period of time, it can harden and form calculus or tartar. This can cause tooth decay as the plaque will turn sugars into acid, which will eat away at the tooth enamel. If plaque is allowed to build up, it can lead to other dental problems such as cavities and gum disease.
Good oral health is key to having a pain-free smile. Tooth decay and gum disease are the two most common dental problems, but both can be prevented with good oral hygiene habits.
What is the Cause of Tooth Decay
Although a common problem that many people face and there are a variety of factors that can put you at a higher risk. If you have gum disease, your teeth may be more susceptible to decay. Crooked teeth are also more difficult to clean and can trap plaque and bacteria. Certain medications-such as those used to treat anxiety or depression-can also cause a dry mouth, which leads to an increase in tooth decay.
Diet is a big one, as eating sugary and acidic foods can cause teeth to become damaged. Genetics also play a role, as some people are more susceptible to tooth decay than others. And lastly, lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking alcohol can also increase the risk of developing tooth decay.
The main cause of tooth decay is plaque, which is a sticky film of bacteria that coats your teeth and gums and is caused by consuming a lot of sugars and starches.. The bacteria in plaque convert sugars and starches into acids. Plaque starts forming on the teeth soon after eating or drinking anything sugary. These acids attack the tooth enamel, causing cavities, which are holes in the teeth that can become infected if not treated.
This film of bacteria, eats away at your tooth’s enamel and removes minerals from your teeth. Tooth decay begins when enamel wears away and bacteria and acid reach dentin which is softer than enamel and less resistant to acid.
Bacteria and acid work their way down to the inner tooth material, called pulp. This contains nerves and blood vessels, so this condition can be quite painful. If left untreated, the decay can reach the roots of the teeth and even spread to other teeth.
In short, cavities are caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. The bacteria in plaque eats away at the enamel coating on teeth, creating holes (cavities) that can decay the tooth structure and lead to pain and tooth loss.
In addition to the causes mentioned in the title, other factors that increase the risk for tooth decay are lack of dental hygiene, consumption of sugary drinks and snacks, and smoking. Plaque is a film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth and can be removed manually or through dental hygiene. However, it’s hard for people to keep up with the amount of plaque that’s constantly forming on their teeth.
Teeth that develop cavities more often are the back teeth because they have grooves and openings that trap food particles, which is why these teeth need to be brushed and flossed more often than front teeth. The most common causes of tooth decay are: lack of oral hygiene, sugary foods and drinks, acidic foods, and not getting dental checkups regularly.
Finally, there are several less well known causes. One is dry mouth, which can be caused by a number of factors such as aging, certain medications, and radiation therapy to the head and neck. Another cause is eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
These disorders often lead to poor oral hygiene and can cause extensive damage to the teeth. Acid reflux disease (GERD), which is very common, can also lead to tooth decay. The stomach acids that flow back up into the oesophagus can wear away the tooth enamel and cause cavities.
Tooth Decay Symptoms
The most common symptom of tooth decay is toothache. However, there are a variety of other symptoms that can indicate that you have tooth decay, including sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks, bad breath, swollen gums, and black spots on your teeth. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see a dentist as soon as possible for treatment.
If tooth decay is left untreated, it can cause a wide range of symptoms. These may include:
- tooth sensitivity
- brown or black stains on the teeth surface
- pain when biting
- swollen gums
- red and swollen face
- bad breath
- tooth loss.
What are the types of cavities?
There are three main types of cavities:
- pit and fissure decay,
- root decay,
- and smooth surface decay.
Each type is caused by different factors and has different symptoms. It is important to know the differences in order to get the right treatment.
Pit and fissure decay is the most common type of cavity and it starts during the teenage years. The tooth enamel on the chewing surfaces of back teeth is thin and susceptible to damage from bacteria. Root decay is difficult to prevent and treat because it affects the hidden parts of the tooth below the gum line. Smooth surface decay occurs on the surfaces of teeth that are not protected by enamel, such as the front teeth.
Interestingly, there is another type of cavity that is quite rare- odontoma. This type of cavity develops from abnormal growths on tooth roots or inside the jawbone (ossification). If you are experiencing any pain in your teeth, it is best to visit a dentist and get it checked out.
The Stages of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is a common problem that affects people of all ages. It is caused by the build-up of plaque on the teeth. The stages of tooth decay are generally as follows: Stage 1: No visible signs of decay; Stage 2: Localized signs of decay; Stage 3: Signs of deeper cavities but no pain or discomfort; Stage 4: Painful cavities with pronounced swelling and sensitivity; and Stage 5: Advanced levels of tooth decay where the damage has become extensive and requires treatment.
In general, tooth decay progresses through five stages:
- Stage 1: There is no visible damage to the teeth, but they may be more sensitive to hot or cold food. This is because dental plaque – a colorless, sticky film that covers the surface of your teeth and helps to protect bacteria – has built up on the tooth surface.
- Stage 2: You may notice some sensitivity to hot or cold food, such as soup. The plaque has now turned into tartar, which is a hardened form of plaque that can only be removed by a dentist.
- Stage 3: A brown or black spot may form on the tooth surface as the decay continues to spread.
- Stage 4: The tooth may start to break and crumble as the decay reaches the nerve.
- Stage 5: The tooth will need to be extracted if it has reached this stage.
Tooth decay is a gradual process that occurs when plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, accumulates on teeth. The bacteria in plaque use sugar to produce acids that attack the enamel of teeth. If the plaque is not removed, it mineralizes into tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist. Cavities form as a result of the acid attack and if left untreated can progress to root canal treatment.
Your teeth are made up of different tissues. The outer layer is called enamel and it’s composed mostly of minerals. Enamel is a hard tissue that protects the inner layers of your teeth from decay.
When a tooth is exposed to acids produced by plaque bacteria, the enamel begins to lose these minerals and becomes more vulnerable to demineralization. The early stages of tooth decay may not cause any pain, but if left untreated, it can progress and lead to cavities.
Once tooth decay has set in, it continues to progress through the different stages. You can tell when the enamel on your teeth is weak because small holes will form and these are called cavities or dental caries. The soft tissue between your enamel and dentin is more sensitive to damage from acid than the enamel alone. Dentin also contains tubes that lead to the nerves of the tooth and these are more vulnerable to decay than enamel is.
Once tooth decay reaches the pulp, you may start to experience some symptoms. One of the most common is sensitivity. The nerves in the pulp can send sensation all the way to the tooth, so if damage occurs to the pulp, it may swell and press on nerves. This causes irritation and sensitivity that can be quite uncomfortable.
Untreated tooth decay can lead to a number of problems. The bacteria that cause decay can invade the tooth and form an abscess. An abscess is a pocket of pus that forms in response to infection. The pain caused by an abscess can be severe and may radiate into the jaw. If you have a tooth abscess, you need to see a dentist right away for treatment. Left untreated, an abscess can spread into the bones of your jaw and other areas of your head and neck.
As tooth decay progresses, it may reach a point where the dentist can no longer restore the tooth. In these cases, the teeth may need to be removed. However, if caught in time, tooth decay can be treated and reversed. Unfortunately, many people do not seek treatment until the damage is already done and the tooth decay is visible.
Tooth decay prevention: Fluoride, sugar and Foods
Tooth decay is a common problem that can occur when plaque and bacteria build up on the teeth. It can lead to cavities, toothache, and other problems. There are a number of things you can do to help prevent tooth decay, including brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, eating a healthy diet low in sugar, and having regular dental checkups. If tooth decay is mild, it can often be treated using fluoride and preventive measures such as sealants. In more severe cases, you might need to have a filling done.
Tooth decay can be prevented by avoiding risky behaviours such as: smoking and drinking sugary drinks, using preventive measures such as proper diet, brushing and flossing regularly, fluoride supplementation where needed, and use of pain relief medications if necessary.
The 3 key steps to prevent tooth decay are brushing twice a day, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular dental check-ups.
In some cases, your dentist might recommend that you have a special layer (sealant) applied to healthy back teeth to prevent tooth decay.
If it is mild, tooth decay can be treated by using fluoride and taking preventive steps.
Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth using sugar from foods and drinks to produce acids that dissolve and damage teeth.
In addition, tooth decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth that use sugar from foods and drinks to produce acids. These acids dissolve and damage teeth over time, which is why it is important to practice good oral hygiene habits and avoid sugary drinks. “Diet” soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices, fruit drinks, and cordials also have high levels of acids that can cause tooth erosion. Drinking these beverages contributes significantly to tooth decay.
Prevention is key in maintaining good oral hygiene and overall health. The best way to prevent tooth decay is to reduce the number of times you expose your teeth to acid. Acid can be found in foods and drinks, so it’s important that you are mindful of what you eat and drink. Every time you drink a beverage, you’re damaging your teeth again.
Tooth Decay Treatment
Tooth decay is the most common dental problem in Australia that can often be reversed if it is caught early. There are various stages of tooth decay, and each stage has different treatment options. If you catch tooth decay early, it can be treated relatively easily and without too much discomfort.
The best way to treat tooth decay is to cut down your intake of dietary sugar and to practice good oral hygiene habits. This means brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing once a day, and using mouthwash. You should also visit your dentist for regular checkups.
Fluoride is a mineral that is often applied in the form of a gel or varnish to help prevent tooth decay. It can also be found in most toothpastes and water, with about 74% of Americans that get their tap water from a community water system receiving fluorinated water. This helps to keep teeth healthy by strengthening the enamel and preventing cavities from forming.
If we diagnose tooth decay in its early stages, there are a few different tactics the Always Smiles Dental team can use to limit its effects and help stop further decay. Depending on the severity of the decay, we may apply a concentrated fluoride gel, varnish or paste to the affected area to help stop tooth decay in its tracks.
It can be prevented by regular checkups and good oral hygiene habits. If tooth decay is left untreated, it can lead to more serious problems such as gum disease and even tooth loss. Treatment options include fillings, root canal treatment, and extractions. Treatment depends on the severity of the cavity and your particular situation.
Treatment options include:
Fluoride: In the early stages of tooth decay, fluoride treatments provide a viable solution for people. Fluoride treatments help to rebuild the enamel on teeth and stop the decay from progressing. Professional fluoride treatments also contain more fluoride than what is found in tap water, toothpaste, and mouth rinses. This extra dosage of fluoride can make a significant difference in halting tooth decay and preventing further damage.
Fillings: If tooth decay progresses beyond the earliest stage, the main treatment option is a filling. Fillings include composite resins, porcelain, and amalgam. Composite resin fillings are made of plastic and glass particles and are tooth-colored. Porcelain fillings are also tooth-colored but harder than composite resin fillings. Amalgam is a mixture of metals.
Crowns.: Crowns are a dental restoration that replaces the entire natural crown of your tooth. When you have tooth decay, your dentist will drill away all the decayed area and enough of the rest of your tooth to ensure a good fit for the crown. Crowns may be made of gold, high strength porcelain, resin, porcelain fused to metal or other materials.
Root canals.: Root canal treatment is a common procedure that is used to repair and save badly damaged or infected teeth. The diseased tooth pulp is removed, medication is put in to clear any infection, and then the pulp is replaced with a filling. This treatment can often save the tooth from being extracted.
Tooth extractions: If the decay is more advanced, you may need a tooth pull. This can leave a gap in your mouth, which may cause some teeth to shift. Getting an implant or bridge to replace the missing tooth is a good option for some people who have had their teeth pulled.
Tooth Decay FAQs
What happens if a decayed tooth is not removed?
If a decayed tooth is not removed, the decay will spread and destroy more healthy teeth. This can lead to bone loss, abscesses and infection in other areas of your mouth.
If a decayed tooth is not removed, the infection will spread to other teeth and eventually cause an abscess. The infection can also travel through your bloodstream to affect your heart or brain.
If a decayed tooth is ignored, problems may arise that can lead to gum disease and ultimately death.
Does a decayed tooth have to be removed?
If tooth decay has progressed to the pulp (the soft tissue in the centre of the tooth that contains blood and nerves), it may be removed through a procedure known as root canal therapy. If a tooth is so seriously injured that it cannot be repaired, it may have to be removed.
Can you reverse tooth decay?
A cavity may typically be reversed if discovered at the beginning or early stages of the demineralisation process, which is the initial step in tooth decay. Good dental hygiene is essential at this time for replenishing the minerals in your teeth and preventing decay. This involves brushing and flossing on a regular basis, as well as frequent exposure to fluoride, a mineral that helps build the enamel of your teeth.
How much tooth decay is reversible?
Tooth decay is only reversible when it affects the tooth’s enamel. Once decay has reached the dentine beneath the enamel, it is irreversible. You may be able to avoid the drill if your dentist detects the deterioration in its early stages. Fluoride varnish can be put to the tooth to assist prevent damage from advancing past the enamel while also re-mineralizing’ it.