At some point, most people will have had some degree of tooth decay. You may have had fillings, or a root canal, or you may not have even known you’ve got an issue.
With tooth decay affecting a large percentage of adults and children alike, can you honestly say you’re doing everything you can to avoid it becoming a problem for you?
We all know that we should clean our teeth every day to prevent cavities and other dental issues, but exactly how bad is tooth decay and can it be reversed?
Let’s answer that question and discuss what steps you can take to prevent tooth decay becoming a problem.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
Inside everyone’s mouth, there’s a mini-ecosystem where good and bad bacteria live side-by-side. Most people are partial to a little bit of sugar in their diet. But when that sugar hangs around for too long, the bacteria that naturally live in our mouths feed off it.
This bacteria is probably one you’ve heard of before; it’s dental plaque. As the plaque interacts with the sugar, acid is created. The presence of acid on your teeth leads to a deterioration of the dentin and enamel.
If this acid isn’t thoroughly cleaned from the tooth, it’ll start a process called demineralisation.
Eventually, this will lead to a hole, or cavity, forming. When you get a cavity, you’ll usually need a filling. If you don’t get a filling soon enough, the dental pulp inside the tooth’s root canal could become infected. Root canal treatment will then be needed.
Ignore the warning signs of a root canal infection, and you’ll develop a periapical tooth abscess. If this is caught too late, the tooth will need extracting.
Tooth enamel may be the toughest substance in your body, but if it’s attacked repeatedly by plaque acid, it will start to weaken and tooth decay will set in.
Over time, any plaque that builds up on your tooth that isn’t removed through cleaning will harden to become tartar, or dental calculus. You can brush as hard as you like, but you’ll never clear tartar deposits from your teeth yourself. To remove a tartar build up, we use a tool called a scaler. While it may be tempting to try and replicate this process in your own home, DIY attempts at scraping plaque or tartar could cause damage to your gums.
Not only will tartar worsen tooth decay, but its presence along the gum line can lead to inflammation, irritation, and bleeding. This is called gingivitis. If left untreated, this will become periodontal disease and will eventually affect the underlying bone structure, causing your teeth to fall out.
Can Tooth Decay Be Reversed?
As tooth decay sets in, it can cause pain and discomfort and you will need a filling. All things that you’ll want to avoid.
Because tooth decay affects both the outer enamel layer as well as the dentin below, there are two stages. During the demineralisation phase, before there has been any damage to the enamel, it may be possible to prevent any further damage.
Through good oral hygiene and with increased exposure to fluoride, the strength in your enamel can be restored, and the effects of mild decay can be reversed.
Once the decay has passed through the enamel and has reached the dentin, it cannot be reversed and we’ll need to take steps to try to save your tooth. This may involve a filling or root canal treatment.
On a routine checkup, we’ll always look for the early signs of decay. When we spot the symptoms early, before the enamel is damaged, we’ll let you know.
How Can Tooth Decay Be Prevented?
Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent tooth decay from becoming a problem that affects you in the first place.
You should thoroughly brush your teeth at least twice a day using a soft bristled toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is useful for preventing decay, slowing the production of harmful acids, and strengthening enamel while it’s developing. Remember to change your toothbrush at least three or four times a year.
Brush your teeth for two minutes at a time, making sure you clean every side of each tooth.
Food debris and plaque can get lodged in between your teeth. Use dental floss to make sure nothing is allowed to build-up in these parts of your mouth your toothbrush can’t reach.
Mouthwash can be helpful in controlling plaque while refreshing your breath. Try and use this at a different time of the day from brushing, as it could rinse away the fluoride from your toothpaste.
Using a small amount of mouthwash, rinse your mouth out. After you’ve thoroughly swished around your entire mouth, spit out the mouthwash.
A regular visit to see our dental hygienist will help improve the overall cleanliness of your teeth. Not only will your teeth sparkle after your appointment, but they’ll be healthier too. Using start-of-the-art tools such as Prophyflex, we’ll carry out a deep clean that will make your teeth feel amazing.
Unless we advise you otherwise, we’d always recommend visiting us for a routine checkup every six months. This will help us identify tooth decay before it starts to damage your teeth.
Finally, review your diet. A sweet treat once in a while won’t do you too much harm, however, if you’re regularly snacking between meals, eating a lot of sugary foods, and drinking too many sugary drinks, you’re putting yourself at a greater risk of tooth decay. Cut back on the sugar, and give your plaque less to feed on.
Say Goodbye to Tooth Decay
If you’re concerned about tooth decay, don’t wait for it to become a problem that costs you your teeth. With clinics in Cheam, Chessignton, and Stonecot, we want to make sure your dental checkup is as convenient as possible.
We’re always on hand to provide you with the best possible advice to keep your teeth healthy, while looking their best. To schedule an appointment, get in touch today.