What is Tooth Decay?
Bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars in the food you eat and excrete acids that can damage teeth. This damage is known as tooth decay and if left untreated can lead to cavities, and eventually toothache and infection. Infected teeth may eventually need to be removed.
The hard outer layer of the tooth is called enamel. Below this is a softer layer called dentin, and the core of the tooth, the pulp, contains nerves and blood vessels that nourish the tooth.
The bacteria and the acids they produce combine to form a sticky substance called plaque. The acids wear away the teeth for as long as twenty minutes after every time you eat and it’s important to remove plaque at least twice a day to minimize the damage to teeth.
- Here are several things you can do to prevent tooth decay:
- Practice impeccable oral hygiene, including daily brushing and flossing.
- See a dentist twice a year for more thorough cleaning.
- Limit your intake of sugar.
- Use Fluoride to make the teeth more resistant.
- Drink plenty of water, especially if you tend to have a dry mouth. Saliva and water can both help to wash away food particles and dilute acids.
- Not smoking or using tobacco products.
- Staying healthy, diabetes and certain other conditions can interfere with the ability of teeth to resist decay.
Prevent It, You Won’t Regret It
These are even more important for children because their teeth are growing and the enamel hasn’t completely hardened, so they are more prone to decay and cavities. Even babies too young for solid food should have their gums cleaned with a bit of gauze every day. Not only will this establish an early habit of keeping the mouth clean, but sugar in formula, milk and juice can contribute to infant tooth decay.
So how can you tell if you have tooth decay? Odds are you won’t until it leads to infection and other problems. This is why it is so important to see a dentist twice a year. If you are in the San Diego area, visit us at Brighton Dental. Your dentist has tools to help identify decay before it progresses to that point.
But if you have been neglecting your regular checkups, the following are some signs that you need to be seen soon:
- Tooth pain,
- Swelling gums, especially near a sore tooth,
- Bad taste in your mouth or bad breath, or
- Spots on your teeth.
If you start to notice any of these, see your dentist as soon as possible. Even if it gets better, the decay is still there, the symptoms will come back and neglecting the situation can lead to death of the tooth. A dentist can remove the decay and fill the tooth so it doesn’t go that far. Most of the damage caused to the teeth by decay can be prevented by frequent brushing and flossing. Taking care of the bacteria that feeds on sugary food should be a daily activity. Visiting your dentist on time will also prevent the need for any invasive procedure and will definitely make your time spent there as pleasant as a chat in the park.