The enamel on our teeth is relatively strong, but if we don’t look after our mouths then tooth decay can occur. Also known as dental decay, this is the process whereby plaque builds up on the teeth leading to tartar and eventually the breakdown of the tooth, leading to gaps and lesions.
What causes decay?
Decay is caused by plaque, which is formed from bacteria and produces acids that slowly soften the enamel on your teeth. As the acids continue to eat through the tissue, this can lead to small holes or large cavities in your teeth.
Aside from the gaps and cavities caused by decay, the process can also lead to infection and gum disease, both of which often have a number of negative symptoms. These symptoms include localised pain or discomfort, bleeding and swollen gums, and loose teeth. You should visit your dentist as soon as you notice any of these signs so you can start treatment immediately.
The treatment required for decay is dependent on its severity. For minor decay it may be possible to have a small filling or inlay introduced into the mouth, which will successfully hide the cavity. For more serious decay, you may require a crown, bridge or even a dental implant to replace a damaged tooth. Before each treatment is undertaken, the area of the mouth affected will be thoroughly cleansed to ensure that decay doesn’t continue. Your dentist will advice you on the suitability of each treatment based on your individual circumstances.
It is also possible to treat the early stage of decay by altering your daily oral hygiene routine. This should include brushing twice a day, flossing between teeth, using mouthwash to kill bacteria and using fluoride toothpaste or supplements to protect your enamel.
Your diet can also have a large impact on the decay of your teeth and there are a number of tips you should remember when considering your dental health:
• Don’t eat sugary or starchy foods more than twice a day, these can lead to a increase in acid levels in your mouth
• Leave large breaks in between sugary meals to give your saliva the opportunity to break down the acids, preventing decay
• Use alkaline foods to counter acidic foods during meals to prevent the build up of acids
• Avoid sticky starch foods such as crisps, which may get stuck in your teeth and boost levels of bacteria in your mouth
• Watch what you drink – fizzy drinks and fruit juices can cause as much damage as sugary foods
• Chew sugar-free gum to encourage the production of saliva after eating, preventing the build up of plaque