What is Tooth Decay, And How Can It Be Prevented?
Unhygienic oral practices and a lack of adequate preventive measures increase the chances of the occurrence of oral diseases; the most prevalent among these oral illnesses is tooth decay.
According to a recent report published by NIDCR, 92% of American adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have tooth decay. What’s more interesting is that literate and high income groups experience more cases of tooth decay.
The alarming stats mentioned here clearly show that even educated people neglect their dental health. But it’s not too late, because, with proper care, tooth decay can be prevented. This article will tell you all you need to know about tooth decay, its causes, symptoms, and prevention.
Definition of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay involves the deterioration of the hard, outer layer of the teeth—known as tooth enamel. Tooth decay is common in people of all ages, but children and the elderly are more prone to it.
The primary cause of tooth decay is dental cavities. Dental cavities are permanently damaged areas on your tooth that manifest as tiny black holes on the enamel. The three stages of dental cavity buildup are listed below:
- Plaque Forms: Plaque is a yellowish sticky substance that collects around your teeth due to improper brushing after consuming sugary food. The oral bacteria in your mouth feed on this residue and form plaque.
- Plaque Starts the Erosion Process: Insufficient brushing allows the plaque to build a thick layer on the enamel and around the gums. This is the first step in cavity formation. The tooth enamel softens and becomes less resistant to acids.
- The Erosion Continues: Once the cavities build up, your teeth start to decay. They get more vulnerable to cracks and you can lose them as a result. Pain and discomfort continue to grow and sometimes causes swelling around the gums.
Moreover, worn-out fillings, GERD, smoking, and excessive caffeine & alcohol consumption also increases the chances of cavities and tooth decay.
Common symptoms of tooth decay include the following:
- Continuous pain or gum spasms
- Temperature sensitivity
- Visible tiny, black holes on the enamel
- Yellow, brown, or black stains near the gum line
- Bleeding gums while brushing
- Infectious pus pockets on the gums
Tooth decay is easy to detect. And early detection and prevention make it 100% curable. Primary preventive measures include brushing and flossing after eating food. A healthy diet with limited intake of sugary and starchy foods is highly advised.
But, if the decay occurs and becomes critical, the experienced orthodontists recommend getting fluoride treatments, root canal, fillings, or extractions. Regular dental checkups can also prevent tooth decays.