What Causes Tooth Decay?
Your mouth is full of bacteria which mix with small particles and saliva to form a sticky film known as plaque. When you eat or drink stuff that is high in carbohydrates, especially sugary foods and drinks, the bacteria in your plaque turn those carbohydrates into energy they need and acid. This acid starts to soften your enamel, the hard other coating of your tooth, by removing minerals. Eventually a hole or cavity can develop which bacteria and plaque can reach your dentine- the softer, bone like mineral underneath the enamel so speeding up the process of tooth decay. Without treatment, plaque and bacteria will enter the pulp the soft centre of the tooth that contains the nerves and blood vessels. At this stage your nerves will be exposed to bacteria making it very painful and possibly causing an abscess.
What Are The Symptom?
About one in three adults in the UK have tooth decay but many will have no symptoms until it is at an advanced stage. Symptoms of tooth decay include toothache, tooth sensitivity, grey, black or brown spots appearing on your teeth, bad breath and unpleasant taste.
Toothache is a warning something is wrong and you should visit your dentist as soon as possible. If you ignore the problem you could end up losing the tooth. Even if you don’t have any symptoms it is important to have regular checkups at your dentist. These should be every two years for adults and annually for children under 18.
How Can You Reduce The Risk Of Tooth Decay?
- By reducing the amount of food you consume that has high levels of carbohydrates like chocolate and sweets but also crisps and white bread, especially between meals
- By regularly brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and using dental floss or an independent brush
- By cutting down on smoking because tobacco can reduce the saliva in your mouth and it is the saliva that helps keep the surface of your teeth clean
- By drinking less alcohol because it contributes to erosion of your tooth enamel
- By keeping your mouth moist because lower levels of saliva encourage tooth decay as saliva helps neutralise acids in your mouth
How Can You Treat Tooth Decay?
Fluoride is probably the most effective treatment for preventing and limiting the spread of tooth decay. It strengthens the enamel,r reduces the ability of plaque bacteria to produce acid and helps the remineralisation of the enamel.
If your cavity is in its early stages our dentist may be able to prevent further decay by applying a concentrated fluoride gel, varnish or paste to any affected teeth. If the decay is more extensive the dentist may have to repair the damaged with a filling or crown. If the decay has spread to the pup, it may have to be replaced with artificial pulp which is known as root canal treatment.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Maintaining good oral hygiene through brushing and flossing your teeth is one of the most effective ways to prevent tooth decay. You should bush your teeth for at least 2 minutes just before you go to bed and other occasions during the day. Don’t brush your teeth immediately after eating as it can damage your teeth, especially if you have had fruit, fizzy drinks, wine etc. Leave a gap of about an hour. When brushing you should place the head of the toothbrush against your teeth, then tilt the bristle tips to a 45 degree angle against the gum line. Move the brush in a small circular rotation several times on the whole surface of each tooth, back and front. Replace you toothbrush every two to three months.
Do not rinse the mouth with water or mouthwash after brushing as it washes away the protective toothpaste and try not to eat anything for 30 minutes after brushing.
- What causes dental decay?
- Why do you get acid in your mouth?
- How many adults in England suffer from tooth decay?
- What are the symptoms?
- What is plaque?
- What happens if plaque is allowed to build up?
- Then what happens?
- What can increase the risk of tooth decay?
- When should you brush your teeth?
- How often should you replace your toothbrush?
[expand title=”Quiz Answers”]
- Acids in your mouth
- The bacteria in your mouth turn the carbohydrates you eat into energy they need, producing acid at the same time
- 1 in 3
- Toothache, tooth sensitivity, grey, brown, black spots on your teeth,bad breath and unpleasant taste
- Plaque is a sticky brown film created by bacteria combining with small food particles and saliva
- It will soften the enamel and over time a small hole will appear
- The bacteria can reach soft inner dentine and the pulp so causing an abscess
- Diet,poor oral hygiene, smoking and alcohol and dry mouth
- Last thing at night before you go to bed and one other time at least an hour after you last ate
- Every two to three months