While in adults it is periodontal disease the main cause of tooth loss, in children and young people is cavities. For that reason, trying to prevent its occurrence is an essential part of maintaining an adequate oral health.
A) What is tooth decay
Tooth decay is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that exist in the mouth. When we consume sugary products or carbs, these bacteria produce acids capable to destroying tooth enamel. Once decay penetrates the enamel, its progress is unstoppable because dentin, the structure that is under the enamel, is much more weak. If it is not stopped in time, tooth decay can invade the pulp (nerve) causing the typical toothache. If this occurs, it would be necessary to perform a root canal treatment or even removing the tooth if it is very affected.
B) Causes that favors the development of tooth decay
There are several causes that can cause the development of cavities. Knowing the causes can help to prevent them.
1. Enamel quality
Tooth enamel is the hardest structure in the human body, even more than bone. However, the quality of the enamel is not the same in everybody, so the genetics of each one will determine the resistance to caries attack.
2. Dental plaque
Dental plaque is the yellowish-white layer that is deposited on the teeth when they are not properly brushed. This plaque is made up of bacteria, cell debris from the mouth and food waste. If this remains a long time on the teeth surface, it can end up damaging the enamel.
3. Cariogenic foods
Food is a third fundamental factor in the development of caries. Sweet and sticky foods are ideal for fattening those bacteria, since carbohydrates are the fundamental basis in their diet. Cariogenic foods include chocolate, cookies, pastries, sweets and certain fruits and soft drinks.
3) How to avoid tooth cavities
Here are some tips for caries prevention.
1. Having proper dental hygiene
As we said, bacterial plaque is one of the causes of tooth decay, so avoiding its formation is one of the most effective prevention measures. For this, it is essential to make a good toothbrushing, using the correct technique, the right time and a toothbrush in a good condition. Likewise, it is recommended that predisposed persons use auxiliary means for cleaning interdental spaces such as dental floss, interproximal brushes or waterjet.
2. The importance of fluoride
Fluoride increases the hardness of enamel and its use is especially recommended when teeth are forming. Although in some cases it is convenient to reinforce the consumption of fluoride, it is usually sufficient with that contained in tap water.
3. Avoid cariogenic foods
Another preventive measure for the development of caries is to follow a proper diet, controlling the consumption of cariogenic products such as those mentioned above. If consumed, tooth brushing should still be more thorough.
D) Treatments for tooth decay
Following preventive measures can help to control the appearance of dental caries, but, if it has developed, then it is necessary to treat it. Tooth filling, inlays/onlays and root canal treatments are the most frequent procedures for treating tooth decay.
1. Tooth filling
The most common solution for superficial cavities is a composite restoration, colloquially called filling. These can be made in different materials, the most common being resins or composites.
2. Dental inlays/onlays
If the destruction of the tooth is very large, another type of treatment are dental inlays/onlays. To do so, a mold is taken from the area to be reconstructed to later manufacture the inlay/onlay that will be cemented to the affected tooth.
When a cavity has already affected the dental pulp, then a root canal treatment should be performed. In this procedure, the nerve of the tooth is removed and subsequently filled with different materials.
As you can see, tooth decay is a very common disease but easily avoidable and repairable. Therefore, we recommend that you have a proper hygiene and diet, and that you visit your dentist regularly. Your oral health will thank you.