TOP
Saturday,September 19,2020 13:21 PM

Causes of tooth decay

By Vision Reporter

Added 4th April 2006 03:00 AM

DENTAL caries (tooth decay) is a disease of the teeth resulting in damage to tooth structure. It is sometimes called dental cavities or tooth decay.

DENTAL caries (tooth decay) is a disease of the teeth resulting in damage to tooth structure. It is sometimes called dental cavities or tooth decay.

By Dr. Biren Yajnik

DENTAL caries (tooth decay) is a disease of the teeth resulting in damage to tooth structure. It is sometimes called dental cavities or tooth decay.

Causes and risk factors
Dental caries usually occurs in children and young adults but can affect any person.

Bacteria, normally present in the mouth, convert all foods –– especially sugar and starch –– into acids. Bacteria, acids, food debris and saliva combine in the mouth to form a sticky substance called plaque that adheres to the teeth. It is the most prominent on the grooved chewing surfaces of back molars, just above the gum line on all teeth, and at the edges of fillings. Plaque that is not removed from the teeth mineralises into calculus (tartar). Plaque and calculus irritate the gums, resulting into gingivitis.

The acids in plaque dissolve the enamel surface of the tooth and create holes in it (cavities). Cavities are usually painless until they grow very large to cause death of the nerve and blood vessels in the tooth, resulting in tooth abscess.

Dietary sugars and starches (carbohydrates) increase the risk of tooth decay. The type of carbohydrate and the timing of ingestion are more important than the amount. Sticky foods are more harmful than nonsticky foods. Frequent snacking increases the time that the acids are in contact with the surface of the tooth.

Prevention

Oral hygiene (proper brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least daily) and professional care (regular dental examination at least once a year) are the primary prevention against dental caries.

Sticky foods are best if eaten as part of a meal rather than as a snack. Brush teeth or rinse the mouth with water after eating these foods. Minimise snacking, which creates a constant supply of acid in the mouth. Avoid constant sipping of sugary drinks or frequent sucking on candy and mints.

The use of dental sealants is a good means of cavity prevention. Sealants are thin plastic-like coating applied to the chewing surfaces of the molars. Fluoride is often recommended to protect against dental caries.

Fluoride that is ingested when the teeth are developing is incorporated into the structure of the enamel and protects it against the action of acids.

Treatment

Destroyed tooth structure does not regenerate. However, the progression of dental caries can be stopped by treatment to preserve the tooth and prevent complications. Visit a dentist to fill teeth, remove decayed material (drilling) and replace with a restorative material such as silver alloy, gold, porcelain, or plastic.

Visit a dentist for a routine cleaning and examination if you have had none in the last six months to one year.

The writer is a
dental surgeon

Causes of tooth decay

Related articles

More From The Author

More From The Author