Tooth decay advice for patients by DrBarryHughes


A full guide to tooth decay causes, types and prevention

More Info
									A Guide To Tooth Decay
                                                                         fingernail and see what comes off). When these bacteria
  Tooth decay - Types, causes and prevetion all explained                feed, they produce a harmful acid which erodes and
                                                                         destroys the tooth structure and can lead to cavities.

Tooth Decay - A Complete                                              2. Food (and drinks). In particular, the main dangers are
                                                                         sugars and carbohydrates. Plaque bacteria love these.
Guide                                                                     They feed on the sugars/carbs and which they then turn
                                                                         into plaque acids.
This page will introduce you to the problem of tooth decay.
In particular we’ll provide a summary of the main tooth decay       So as soon as we eat certain foods are teeth our under attack
causes, including those you will probably know and some             from plaque bacteria. This attack can last for at least an hour,
surprises! There is also a low-down on dental decay symptoms        until the saliva helps neutralize the acids. Therefore the more
and different types of cavities.                                    often we eat these foods; the higher the percentage of the day
We will then lead on to the prevention and treatment of decay.      the teeth are under attack. The FREQUENCY of taking these
                                                                    harmful foods and drinks is more important than the actual
                                                                    amount consumed.

                                                                    Decay occurs on different areas of a tooth
                                                                    Your teeth are more prone to decay in areas where there is
                                                                    more plaque build-up. These areas include :

                                                                       • Grooves, pits or fissures. These are natural indentations
                                                                         on the teeth surfaces that are hard to clean. Fissures
                                                                         in particular can be deep on the biting surfaces of back
                                                                       • The surfaces between teeth.
The factors that cause of tooth decay                                  • Near the gum line, in particular where there is any gum
                                                                         disease or gum recession.
Tooth Decay Causes: The Obvious
                                                                       • Around fillings, crowns, partial dentures or bridgework.
and the Sneaks
What is tooth decay? – Put simply, decay (known as dental
caries, or simply cavities) is the destruction of teeth caused by
plaque acids.                                                       Particular foods bring higher risks of
                                                                    causing tooth decay:
There are two main tooth decay causes:
                                                                    Obvious/well known tooth decay causes:
  1. Certain types of bacteria which are found in dental
     plaque. Plaque is that thin, white film that is constantly        • Candy/sweets.
                                                                                                Candy is a key offender!
     forming on your teeth after you brush (if you haven’t
     brushed your teeth in a few hours- scrape them with a             • Chocolate

   • Fizzy drinks and fruit juices                                       enamel can stay intact. Once decay reaches the dentine,
                                                                         the damage done to the tooth is permanent and will only
   • Biscuits/cookies
   • Ice cream
                                                                      3. The decay will eventually reach the dental pulp where the
   • Jam/jelly                                                           nerve of the tooth lies.

Less well-known causes of cavities (the sneaks):

   • Fruits                                                         Although all decay of teeth has the same underlying cause,
                                                                    there are particular scenarios where decay is more likely:
   • Potato chips/crisps
   • Breakfast cereals                                                 • In young childhood, the teeth can be destroyed by ‘baby
                                                                         bottle’ tooth decay. As the name suggests, it is caused
   • Pretzels                                                            by a child being given a bottle (of milk or juice) to sleep
   • Yogurts                                                             with. This type causes rampant destruction of the baby
                                                                         teeth, especially if the teeth are not cleaned properly by
So it is not just well known foods that are bad for your teeth!!         the parent.
There are lots of ‘hidden’ sugars in food and seemingly healthy
                                                                       • In our later years, we become more at risk of caries on
carbohydrates are broken down into harmful sugars in the
                                                                         the exposed surfaces of the roots of teeth; ‘root caries’.
                                                                           The roots of teeth are more likely to become exposed
There is a lot more advice and tips on foods that cause decay,           as one gets older due to gum disease, gum recession and
as well as the dangers of snacking in our diet and teeth section.        abrasion (over-brushing). As roots have no overlying
                                                                         protective enamel they are more susceptible to disease.
                                                                       • Dry mouth is also more likely as one gets older. Dry
Tooth Decay:                 The        Process           and            mouth (xerostomia) is a reduction in the flow of saliva.
Types                                                                     As saliva normally helps protect the teeth, any reduction
                                                                         in flow will put the teeth at more risk of decay.
”How does a cavity develop and spread?”

                                                                    Cavities can also form underneath or around any dental work
                                                                    that has been placed. For example:

                                                                       • Underneath fillings. A particular risk is if a filling breaks
                                                                         but remains in place, so trapping plaque and food.
                                                                       • Around crowns and bridges, particularly if they do not fit
                                                                         properly or become loose.
                                                                       • Around orthodontic braces and retainers.
                                                                       • Underneath partial dentures.

                                                                    Tooth Decay: The Symptoms

Three stages of tooth decay, from minor to major damage!
Click on image to enlarge.
Decay is a gradual process that follows a well-recognized
pattern if it is left untreated:

  1. The acid erodes the enamel just under the surface in a
                                                                                      Image of a dental x-ray with severe tooth decay
     small area that is hard to detect. A small white spot may
     be visible. At this stage the damage is still reversible.      In the early stages of tooth decay, there are no symptoms! This
                                                                    is a crucial point! It is a key reason why you should attend the
  2. The tooth decay continues through the enamel until it          dentist for regular check-ups; so they can find tooth decay that
     reaches the softer dentine. At this stage it can be said       you may not be aware of. It is much better to find and treat
     that a true cavity has formed. It can then ‘mushroom’          tooth decay as early as possible!
     out rather quickly, destroying the dentine. A lot of the
     tooth can rot away without one knowing as the hard

Once dental caries reaches the dentine inside the tooth, there
may be sensitivity to cold, hot and sweet foods/drinks.
However, it is often not until the rot has advanced deep into the
tooth and caused a large degree of destruction that the tooth
causes problems. At this stage, the tooth may break as the shell
of hard enamel gives way due to the dentine underneath being
Toothache will occur once the dental caries gets near the nerve,
or ‘pulp’ of the tooth. This toothache may begin as sensitivity
only. However, if left untreated it can progress to severe pain
as the nerve begins to die off. This pain is typically worse at
night, brought on by hot food/drink more than cold and it
lingers for a long time after the heat is gone.
Toothache is a sign that there is damage to the tooth, it must
not be ignored. Visit your dentist immediately. Any delay may
result in a tooth rotting beyond repair.

Tooth Decay: Summary
There are two main contributing factors that cause decay:
plaque bacteria and the foodstuffs we eat/drink. There are also
situations both in terms of life-stages and the condition of our
teeth/mouth that can put us at increased risk of decay.
As tooth decay often is ‘silent’ (you are not aware of it) until
it has done a lot of tooth damage. Visit your dentist regularly
and get treatment when needed. Prevention and tooth decay
treatment are discussed for you in the following pages.


To top