- What is Tooth Decay?
- How Will I Know if I Have a Cavity?
- How Do Dentists Detect Cavities?
- Are Some People at More Risk for Developing Cavities?
- How Can I Prevent Cavities?
- What should I do if I have tooth decay?
What is Tooth Decay?
When these bacteria find carbohydrates, they eat them and produce acid. The exposure to acid causes the pH on the tooth surface to drop. Before eating, the pH in the mouth is about 6.2 to 7.0, slightly more acidic than water. As “sugary foods” and other carbohydrates are eaten, the pH drops. At a pH of 5.2 to 5.5 or below, the acid begins to dissolve the hard enamel that forms the outer coating of our teeth.
As the cavity progresses, it invades the softer dentin directly beneath the enamel, and encroaches on the nerve and blood supply of the tooth contained within the pulp.
Cavities attack the teeth in three ways:
1. Pit & Fissure
2. Smooth surface
3. Root surface
The first is through the pits and fissures, which are grooves that are visible on the top biting surfaces of the back teeth (molars and premolars). The pits and fissures are thin areas of enamel that contain recesses that can trap food and plaque to form a cavity. The cavity starts from a small point of attack, and spreads widely to invade the underlying dentin.
The second route of acid attack is from a smooth surface, which is between, or on the front or back of teeth. In a smooth-surface cavity, the acid must travel through the entire thickness of the enamel. The area of attack is generally wide, and comes to a point or converges as it enters the deeper layers of the tooth.
Recipe for tooth decay formation?
How Will I Know if I Have a Cavity?
Patients are sometimes taken off guard when they learn that they have a few cavities but they don’t have any symptoms. It is far better to treat a small cavity than to wait until they have symptoms; such as pain. By the time there are symptoms, the cavity may have spread to infect the dental pulp, necessitating a root canal procedure or a tooth extraction to eliminate the infection. Always remember that most dental problems are insidious — that is, they sneak up on you. Regular dental exams, at least twice a year, will greatly reduce the likelihood that a dental cavity will go undetected and spread, causing toothache pain and infecting the dental pulp.
How Do Dentists Detect Cavities?
Dental X-rays, especially check-up or bitewing X-rays, are very useful in finding cavities that are wedged between teeth, or under the gum line. These “hidden” cavities are difficult or impossible to detect visually or with the explorer. In some cases, none of these methods are adequate, and a dentist must use a special disclosing solution to diagnose a suspicious area on a tooth.
Are Some People at More Risk for Developing Cavities?
How Can I Prevent Cavities?
The easiest way to prevent cavities is by brushing your teeth and removing plaque at least three times a day, especially after eating and before bed. Flossing at least once a day is important to remove plaque between your teeth. You should brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and angle the bristles about 45 degrees toward the gum line. Brush for about the length of one song on the radio (three minutes). It’s a good idea to ask your dentist or hygienist to help you with proper brushing methods.
Reducing the amount and frequency of eating sugary foods can reduce the risk of forming cavities. If you are going to drink a can of sweetened soda, for instance, it is better to drink it in one sitting, than sip it throughout the day. Better yet, drink it through a straw in one sitting, to bypass the teeth altogether. Getting to the dentist at least twice a year is critical for examinations and professional dental cleanings.
Reduce high sugar food can reduce dental cavity significantly
To reduce the incidence of cavities, use toothpaste and mouthwash that contains fluoride. Fluoride is a compound that is added to most tap water supplies, toothpastes, and mouth rinses to reduce cavities. Fluoride becomes incorporated into our teeth as they develop and makes them more resistant to decay. After our teeth are formed, fluoride can reverse the progress of early cavities, and sometimes prevent the need for corrective dental treatments.
The recent drop in the number of cavities is largely due to the addition of fluoride to our drinking water. Mass water fluoridation is the most cost-effective measure available to reduce the incidence of tooth decay. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the acceptable tap water concentration for fluoride is 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million.
A dental procedure called sealants can also help reduce cavities on the top and sides of back teeth (occlusal, buccal and lingual surfaces). A sealant is a white resin material that blankets the tooth, protecting the vulnerable pits and fissures of the tooth. Sealants are routinely placed on children’s teeth to prevent cavities on their newly developing molars. The use of sealants to prevent cavities is also a cost-effective way to reduce the incidence of cavities on adults as well. Sealants are generally not used on teeth that already have fillings.
People who have a dry mouth are at risk for developing cavities, and can have their dentist prescribe artificial saliva and mouth moisturizers, as well as recommend chewing sugarless gum to stimulate saliva production. Finally, an antiseptic mouthwash containing chlorhexidine gluconate such as Chlohexxa or Oradex can also be useful in killing bacteria associated with dental caries.
What should I do if I have tooth decay?
You should go the to dental clinic as soon as possible. Early or small decay is easily to treat. Usually a small filling will do. However if it is large cavity, then a larger filling is required provided there is no pain. In cases where the tooth is painful (eg. pain on biting, disturb sleep), then root canal treatment or extraction is required to stop the infection.
Filling can be silver (amalgam) or white (composite).
Comparison within big and small filling:
Small Filling vs. Large filling
- Less pain during filling More pain (because lager & deeper cavity)
- More aesthetic Less aesthetic
- More lasting and durable Less durable
- Cheaper More expensive (more filling material)
Or tooth capping of is a procedure to created back function, aesthetic as well as protection to a severely damaged tooth. It is usually made of porcelain fused with metal or a full porcelain material. Crown is durable and more lasting compared to a large filling.
Root canal treatment (RCT)
RCT is required when infection from caries has spread to the pulp of a tooth. The tooth is usually painful on chewing and sometimes disturb sleep. The purpose of this treatment is to preserve the tooth by removing the dead and infected pulp leaving the tooth bacteria free.
After RCT, the tooth can be restored with filling or a corwn. If there is a lot of tooth structure loss, the tooth should be protected with a crown.
Tooth extraction in another way to stop infection. However, this method is commenced if patient don’t want to keep the tooth anymore. Patient have to understand the consequent of removing the tooth
Root canal treatment vs. Tooth extraction
- Tooth preserved Tooth removed
- Difficult (esp molar tooth) Simple & fast
- Expensive Cheaper than RCT
- Few visits One visit
- Lesser problems in future More problems in future