Tooth decay is damage to the teeth that happens when harmful, decay-causing bacteria make a home in your mouth. They then start to produce acids that attack your teeth’s surface and enamel. This is what causes cavities, which are essentially small holes in your teeth that may grow larger with time. If left untreated, cavities can cause pain, infection and may even lead to tooth loss.
Everyone is susceptible tooth decay, regardless of their age. Anyone who has teeth, from children to the elderly, can suffer from tooth decay. Young children are specifically at risk for “baby bottle tooth decay,” which is severe decay in baby teeth. Also, adults may experience receding gums, which can expose sensitive tooth roots to bacteria and develop decay on exposed root surfaces of the tooth.
Tooth decay is caused when sugars and starches are left behind from food and drinks for a prolonged period of time. Bacteria feeds on these sugars and forms acid. The acid then attacks your tooth’s surface and enamel, causing it to lose minerals.
If you eat or drink sugary or starchy foods often, this can happen to you. These repeated cycles of “acid attacks” will cause your enamel to continue losing minerals. The enamel is then weakened and eventually destroyed, creating a cavity.
The symptoms of tooth decay are nonexistent in the early stages. As it advances, tooth decay can cause toothache or tooth sensitivity to temperature. If the tooth becomes infected, an abscess can form, which can cause pain, facial swelling or fever.
Tooth decay can be diagnosed during your regular dental check-ups. Early signs of tooth decay might look like a white spot on your tooth. If tooth decay is in a more advanced stage, it might look like a darker spot or a hole in the tooth. Your dentist can also check your teeth for soft or sticky areas or take x-rays to show decay.
Dentists will choose to treat cavities by filling them in. Your dentist will remove the decayed tissue surrounding your tooth and then restore your tooth with a filling substance.
You can prevent tooth decay by using fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral that can prevent tooth decay from getting worse. It can even reverse or stop early tooth decay. You can receive the benefits of fluoride by brushing with fluoride toothpaste, drinking tap water with fluoride or using a fluoride mouth rinse.
Having a good oral hygiene routine, brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing, can help to keep your teeth cleaner. Also, making better decisions about the food you eat and limiting those that contain lots of sugar or starches can help you in preventing tooth decay.
Making sure you see your dentist at Strathroy Family Dental for regular check-ups will help you greatly in preventing tooth decay. If you suspect you are suffering from tooth decay, contact Strathroy Family Dental today to book an appointment.