How Does Tooth Decay Start?
Tooth decay is something that seems to “sneak up on you” especially if you’re not diligent with dental care. Neglecting your mouth, not having dental check-ups and not properly brushing or flossing your teeth leads to tooth decay, the dentists at Westermeier Martin Dental Care in Buffalo, New York explain.
The way your teeth decay is this
Sweet and sticky foods feed the bacteria in your mouth and that bacteria produces acid and those acids attach your tooth enamel (the outer surface of your tooth). These acids will begin to decay your teeth.
Candy, ice cream and cookies aren’t the only culprits. Any foods with carbohydrates will break down into simple sugars.
The bacteria and acid cause dental caries lesions, meaning the acid is dissolving the protective outer layer of your tooth – the enamel. Cavities form when tooth decay breaks through the enamel and gets into the underlying layers of the tooth.
Your dentist can help “reverse” a caries lesion before it turns into a cavity. This can be done by using fluoridated products such as toothpaste fluoride rinses and having a fluoride treatment at your dentist’s office.
Remember, every time you eat, the bacteria in your mouth begins to produce acid. This means you should brush and floss after every meal to help remove bacteria.
Dental caries, starts inside the tooth. You or your dentist may notice a white spot on the enamel. This means the tooth has started to weaken. At this point, your tooth could repair itself if you are diligent in the use of fluoridated products.
If the decay breaks through the surface of the enamel, the damage is permanent and will require a visit to your dentist to repair it. The decay will need to be cleaned out and the cavity filled by your dentist. If you leave the cavity untreated the decay will destroy the tooth and damage the inside dentin layer down to the pulp, or nerve, of your tooth. This leads to a toothache.
Root caries, is a decay in the roots of the teeth, is the most common type in older adults. Older adults may also have receding gums that are the result of hard tooth brushing or periodontal disease. Older adults, because of various medications they may be on, experience dry mouth and this increases the risk of tooth decay.
Tooth decay can form under fillings or crowns. If bacteria or food particles get into a tooth because of an improperly placed filling or in a crack in the filling, you can get a cavity.
How can I prevent cavities?
If you have a history of cavities in your family, you will want to be extra diligent in brushing, flossing and having regular dental check ups.
You can prevent tooth decay by strengthening your teeth’s defenses with fluoride and sealants. Reducing the bacteria in your mouth will also help prevent cavities.
A dental sealant is a protective coating placed over the tops of molars and pre-molars to block bacteria and acids from sticking in the grooves on the chewing surface.
There is no way to rid your mouth of all of the bacteria, but you can control it by regularly brushing and flossing and seeing your dentist or dental hygienist for thorough cleanings.
If you’re having a toothache, give our Buffalo, New York dentist office a call. You don’t have to suffer from tooth pain. We offer sedation to our patients, free of charge, and work with high-fear, low pain threshold patients regularly. Let us help you smile!