One of the most frequent yet frustrating tooth ailments that bother people all over the world is tooth decay.
What is tooth decay?
Well, we know one thing for sure – tooth decay is definitely bad for our body. Tooth decay is usually defined as a damage that is inflicted on tooth by germs or other words, bacteria, which accumulate in the mouth. These bacteria form acid, which acts on tooth, causing erosion that is commonly known as decay. Over the course of time, this erosion gradually drills a hole in the tooth, which is known as cavity. Tooth cavity is extremely painful, and if not treated properly and timely, causes infection in the root and decay that not only causes tooth loss, but also affects the other adjacent teeth compelling people to book an appointment with an Emergency Dentist.
Before we get into more details, let us at first understand the anatomy of teeth.
There are primarily three layers in our tooth–
- The hard outermost layer, which is called enamel
- The middle layer, which is called dentin
- Pulp is the name given to the central layer. This part contains all the nerves as well as the blood vessels.
The gravity or the extent of decay determines the number of layers affected.
The root cause of tooth decay is bacteria and food. A colorless sticky substance called plaque is constantly accumulating on our teeth and gums. Plaque consists of a certain type of bacteria, which feed on the sugar content of the food we take. Now as the bacteria keep on feeling, they generate acid. This acid keeps on affecting the teeth even after 20 minutes following the intake of food. In due course of time, this acid acts upon the enamel of the tooth, destroying it and ultimately causing tooth decay.
Things that encourage and quicken tooth decay
While with age tooth grow a natural propensity to decay, which is known as natural decaying of tooth, certain bad habits aggravate this decay and result in cavity at a much younger age. They are:
- Not brushing and flossing regularly, more so after having meals.
- Not visiting a local dentist at regular intervals for cleanings and checkups
- Regularly eating foods with high sugar and carbohydrate content and then not washing mouth properly. This provides enough food for the bacteria, and formation of acid.
- Lack of enough fluoride, which weakens tooth over a due course of time. This is because, Fluoride prevents the decay, by making teeth, more acid resistant, thereby minimizing, if not preventing the effect of acid, which is generated by the plaque.
- The ones having dry mouth are more prone to tooth decay. When there is something wrong with the salivary glands, they do not generate enough saliva, thereby drying out the mouth. Now saliva washes the food particles away, thereby reducing the probability of tooth decay. When saliva is not produced sufficiently, the food particles do not get washed away and accumulate between and on the tooth. This aggravates the likelihood of tooth decay. Dry mouth is causes by ailments like Xerostomia, which is also known as Sjögren’s Syndrome.
- Diabetic patients are more prone tooth decay than the non diabetics.
- Smoking, using spit tobacco also contributes to tooth decay substantially
Tooth decay amongst children
Kids, with still growing teeth are more prone that adults when it comes to tooth decay. This can be attributed to the fact that the protective minerals of tooth in case of the kids are still not that strong. Thus, it is easier for the acid to cause decay and erosion and soft tissue injuries.
Even babies and toddlers are not safe from tooth decay. Babies who are laid down on bed with bottle in their mouth can develop something called ‘bottle tooth.” It occurs when babies are regularly fed with sweetened liquids, the glucose content of which stick to the gum or teeth of the baby for a long time, causing tooth decay.
Common symptoms of tooth decay
The most frustrating part of tooth decay is that it does not show any symptom till the situation gets grave and gets out of control, so much so that there remains to other way but uprooting the affected teeth or crown treatment.
However, here are the common symptoms of tooth decay.
- The most common symptom of tooth decay is tooth pain that at times is indeed excruciating.
- Swelling in the gum of the affected teeth and the adjoining tooth. Red and swelled gums are signs of severe tooth decay and Once this stage is reached the only way to get rid of this is surgical extractions of the affected tooth.
- Bad breath, coupled by bad taste is the mouth is another tell tale symptom of tooth decay.
- Decayed tooth generally develop white, grey, black or brown spots.
Once the patients visit orthodontist, he or she will inquire about any past dental problem or medical issues, and then check the teeth with suitable apparatus. Then the individual will conduct exams and xrays to properly ascertain the condition and take action accordingly.
It depends upon the gravity of the situation. Here are some of the most commonly practiced treatments.
- Filling: It’s performed only if there’s a cavity or hole in the teeth. The decay is removed comprehensively at first then a certain material is used to fill in the hole and bring back the original shape of the teeth.
- Crowning: When if the decay is severe and the tooth is damaged beyond repair. A cap or a crown is put on the teeth, and this acts as an artificial replacement for the teeth.
- Root Canal: It is a very cumbersome, long and also a very painful process of treatment, which is conducted if the pulp of the teeth is affected. It is conducted to get rid of the infected pulp.
- Extraction: This is probably the last option when everything else fails. In this treatment, the tooth is uprooted and replaced by a bridge through a bridge treatment, wherein a false teeth is placed in the gap that is created after the extraction.