What is Tooth Decay?
Flower Mound, TX
The teeth are the strongest substance in the human body. Despite this strength, however, they are not invincible. A common issue that affects teeth is called decay. Tooth decay is the softening of your tooth enamel, the incredibly hard, protective exterior layer of your teeth. It occurs when the acids from plaque, bacteria, and certain types of foods erode or eat away at the enamel. This causes mineral loss. Decay needs to be addressed right away. Ignored, decay can turn into a cavity. If you have suffered severe tooth decay, DFW Oral Surgeons can help.
What is the Cause of Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay can occur for many reasons. One of the most common causes is poor oral hygiene. Skipping brushing and flossing or putting off your routine cleanings and exams can lead to an accumulation of plaque and bacteria, which can then lead to decay.
What you eat and drink can play a role. While sugary foods and beverages do not cause decay, they provide food for oral bacteria. As the bacteria consume the sugars, they produce acids. Additionally, acidic foods and beverages can weaken your tooth enamel, leaving it susceptible to decay.
The use of tobacco products increases your risk of decay. These products, including cigarettes and chewing tobacco, increase the stickiness of plaque, which enables this substance to accumulate bacteria more easily. In addition, smoking greatly increases the change that dental restorations such as dental implants could fail.
A condition is known as dry mouth, or xerostomia can also increase your risk. Dry mouth can be caused by many issues, including excessive alcohol consumption, certain medications, and certain health conditions. When your mouth is dry, bacteria can multiply easier.
What are the Signs of Decay and Cavities?
Decay causes the tooth enamel to weaken. Weak areas can appear as white spots on your teeth. As the decay worsens, you may begin to notice other symptoms, which can indicate the development of a cavity. These symptoms include pain in the tooth, tooth sensitivity, and the development of a noticeable pit on the surface of your tooth.
How is Decay Treated?
Decay is reversible. There are a few ways to help reverse decay, restoring the strength to your tooth enamel. One way to help reverse decay is to brush with a fluoridated toothpaste. If your oral hygiene routine is lacking, it is important that you improve it. Brushing at least twice a day, using the fluoridated toothpaste, and floss at least once a day. A mouthwash can also help to eliminate lingering bacteria in your mouth. Decay can also be reversed with professional fluoride treatments. These are topical treatments, which are applied following your routine cleanings. The fluoride in the application absorbs directly into your tooth enamel, helping to strengthen it.
Cavities, on the other hand, cannot be reversed. Instead, treatment is needed to stop their progression, restore the health of your mouth, and restore the strength of the tooth. Cavities can be treated with fillings, inlays or onlays, or a crown. A root canal may be necessary if the cavity has developed into the inner layers of teeth, allowing bacteria inside. If all of these treatment options do not solve the problem, the next treatment would be a tooth extraction. While this is often considered a last resort for treating a badly decayed tooth, it can also be the best long-term solution if followed up with a dental implant.
Can I Prevent Decay?
Decay can be prevented. One of the most important steps for preventing tooth decay is with a good oral hygiene routine. It is important to brush your teeth twice a day, floss at least once a day, and have your teeth professionally cleaned and examined twice a year. You can also help to prevent decay by maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet. Avoid eating too many sweets and carbohydrates, and make sure that you drink plenty of water.
Early detection and treatment of decay are essential for restoring the health of your mouth and preventing the development of cavities. For more information, call DFW Oral Surgeons at DFW Oral Surgeons today.