Let us understand the structure of a tooth in order to grasp how tooth decay occurs.
Each tooth comprises of 3 parts:
The outer protective coating which is hard is called the enamel.
The bone like structure beneath the enamel which is soft is called the dentine.
The central portion of the tooth which holds the connective nerves and blood vessels is called the pulp.
What causes tooth decay?
The bacteria present in the mouth combine with tiny food particles trapped between the teeth to form a membrane on the surface of the teeth called plaque. Any dietary intake which contains high carbohydrates like the ones rich in starch and sweets, the bacteria that constitutes plaque convert the carbohydrates to form acids. Over a period of time these acids weaken the tooth and cause their break fall.
Tooth decay is a gradual process and begins with the wearing off of the enamel. It then proceeds making a tiny hole called a cavity on the upper surface of the tooth. The onset of a cavity causes pain in the tooth. Through this cavity bacteria make their way to the soft dentine region and this hastens the decay process. If left unchecked the bacteria can reach the pulp. On reaching the pulp region the connecting nerves get exposed to bacteria causing severe pain in the tooth.
Where does tooth decay commonly occur?
Tooth decay generally takes place in the molars and premolars which are in the back region of the mouth. These teeth are primarily used for chewing purpose. Owing to their structural shape and size food particles get trapped in between these teeth and are not easily swept off while brushing increasing the chances of tooth decay.
How to avoid tooth decay?
- Brush your teeth regularly for at least 2.5 min twice a day, before and after bed.
- While brushing keep the brush at an angle of 45 degree away from the gum line and move the brush right from where the gums begin and move upwards making short strokes. Remember your strokes need to be gentle as vigorous brushing can make the tooth sensitive and receding of the gums leading to loosening of the teeth.
- Avoid eating excess food stuffs rich in sugar. The sugar content combines with the bacteria present in the mouth to form acids stimulating tooth decay. So gargling is highly recommended after eating foods like raisins, chocolates, cookies, pastries etc.
- Absence of fluoride can give rise to tooth decay. Hence a fluoride tooth paste is advisable.
- Sharing the same spoon, forks, sippers, cups, glasses, and of course even an open mouth kiss can transfer the bacteria contained in the saliva to another person.
A severe tooth ache could be an indicator of tooth decay.
How to diagnose tooth decay?
In case of severe pain a visit to a dentist is recommended. Upon checking the past medical history and a careful examination of the teeth you may be asked to take an X-ray of the complete mouth. Thus a tooth decay can be easily detected.
By and large tooth decays can be treated using fluoride. Decaying in the preliminary stage can be treated by filling cavities. In advanced stages a root canal or an artificial cap may be necessary.