Tooth cavities is the most common disease after common cold. What are dental caries? It’s a scientific term for tooth decay or tooth cavities. Everyone has been a victim of tooth cavities at least once, either in their childhood or later in adulthood. But no one knows how they actually form. All we know is eating too much sugar can cause cavities. But is it so?
So how are cavities actually formed?
When you eat food containing sugar or carbohydrates, the bacteria in your mouth break it down and produce acids. These acids then dissolve the tooth enamel and cause damage to your tooth. That’s how cavities form! Cavities form where bacteria grow the most. There are two common types of cavities. One is the cavity right on the top part of the tooth. The second type is when decay starts on the side of the tooth, or between the teeth. The uppermost layer of the tooth is the enamel. Enamel acts like a shield/ helmet protecting the inner layers of the tooth. Once the acids seep into the enamel, the decay process starts and gradually spreads to the second layer ‘dentin’. If ignored the decay keeps spreading to the deeper layers reaching the nerve.
- Controversies about cavities
- How important is your diet in preventing caries?
- Do cavities form only if you eat too many chocolates and sweets?
- Treatment options to rid of your cavities
- 5 steps to absolutely prevent caries
Controversies about cavities
There are two schools of thought. Some people are under the opinion there are various factors that lead to tooth cavities like improper tongue cleaning, number of bad microorganisms in our mouth, less saliva, the quality of the tooth, the food we eat, the type and frequency of food we eat etc.
Then there are some people who are under the opinion that only a high carbohydrate diet and more sugary foods lead to cavities. According to various studies high sugary diet or a diet rich in carbohydrates cause tooth cavities. It is in our hands to do everything we can to prevent cavities.
How important is your diet in preventing caries?
Generally, caries or dental decay is a direct result of the food you eat. The onset and progress of the decay depend on the frequency of your meals, the type of food you eat along with how well you maintain oral hygiene. Any food containing carbohydrates (bread, wheat, rice) is fermented by the micro-organisms which then produce acids, but food containing simple sugars (sugary cupcakes, biscuits) accelerate this process and is more dangerous for your teeth.
Sticky foods like toffees and sweets like candy bars, energy bars, etc. Tend to remain on the teeth for long after we eat them. Additionally, having 3 meals a day without snacking in between them can be very effective in preventing caries.
Including calcium-rich foods help your teeth become stronger and resist the attack of acids. Eating plenty of fiber helps to flush out all the food particles that are stuck to the tooth. This helps in reducing the risk of tooth decay.
Do cavities form only if you eat too many chocolates and sweets?
Not really. Chocolates and other sticky foods are fermented at a faster rate and accelerate the formation of cavities. This is due to the high sugar content. However, people who do not eat sweets and chocolates also suffer from cavities. This is because most of us are busy during the day and do not or cannot gargle after every meal and so even the normal food we eat also tends to get stuck between our teeth.
However, even if you happen to binge eat or munch on that junk, brushing twice a day and rinsing our mouth with simple water, can help you slow down the process of tooth decay. Brushing your teeth mechanically cleans and helps you get rid of the food particles that are stuck to the surfaces of teeth. Sometimes, the food stuck in between your teeth cannot be removed easily, for which the dentist may prescribe an ‘interdental toothbrush‘. This is a special toothbrush that are recommended by dentists, for people with gaps between their teeth.
The uppermost layer of the tooth is the enamel. Enamel acts like a shield protecting the inner layers of the tooth. Once the acids seep into the enamel, the decay process starts and gradually spreads to the second layer ‘dentin’. Your dentist removes this decayed or carious portion of the tooth and gives you a filling to replace that portion.
Treatment options to rid of your cavities
Depending how big the cavities actually are, that decides your treatment options. Cavities that affect only the upper layers (enamel and dentin) of the tooth without causing pain or less pain may require only filling with different materials and cements. A cavity or tooth decay that is deep and reach the nerve of the tooth causing lots of pain require root canal treatment.
There are different types of fillings available, out of which the composite filling is most preferred. Composite fillings are tooth colored fillings that are strong enough to bear the forces during chewing.Amalgam is a silver colored material made from silver, copper and other metals which have good strength, but not recommended for the front teeth due to its grayish appearance. Due to the toxicity of mercury content in the silver amalgam and a high rate of repeat fillings they have become outdated and banned. Hence, dentists do not advice silver fillings anymore.
Ignoring the tooth decay can have bad consequences. The bacteria will continue growing and producing acid that will finally enter the tooth’s inner layer called the ‘pulp’. The pulp contains blood vessels and sensitive nerve fibers. Once the decay reaches close to the nerve, you may experience pain and sensitivity in that area. At this point, your dentist will recommend a root canal treatment.
Root canal treatment
A root canal treatment includes the removal of the nerve and tissues from the roots of the tooth, and filling it with a suitable material. The dentist will place a cap over your root canal treated tooth to prevent any damage.
In some cases, you may require the removal of the entire tooth. Tooth extraction is a minor surgical procedure that is performed under local anesthesia. The dentist might prescribe you an antibiotic course along with painkillers to help with any pain after the procedure. Depending on your case, the dentist will suggest the treatment for you.
But remember – prevention is better than cure! Brush your teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Along with brushing, the use of dental floss and mouthwash every day is very effective in preventing decay. If you experience any dental pain, consult a dentist in your area at the earliest.
5 steps to absolutely prevent caries
1) Brushing your teeth twice daily
Believe it or not, brushing your teeth morning and bedtime is the first step you can take to prevent caries. No matter whichever toothpaste you use the mechanical action of the toothbrush and right technique of brushing is more important.
2) Tongue cleaning
Using a tongue cleaner to clean your tongue is the most important step which so many of us fail to practice. Studies show tongue is that part of the mouth on which most of the microorganisms reside.
3) Flossing your teeth
Is flossing that important? DO IT AND KNOW THE DIFFERENCE. Try to use a flat and waxed floss to floss your teeth.
Mouthwashes usually contain alcoholic content to kill the bacteria. But try using a non-alcoholic mouthwash for daily use.
Diet control and healthy nutrition, avoid eating sticky foods and try to include plenty of fibers and more salads and vegetables in your diet.
- Cavities form as the bad bacteria in the mouth ferment the sugars and release acids that dissolve the tooth enamel.
- There are many theories as how cavities form and what all factors cause tooth decay. But the bottom line remains the same and getting rid of the food stuck to your teeth is the key to prevent cavities.
- Your diet plays a very important role when it comes to cavities. Frequent snacking is not only dangerous to your dental health, but also your overall health as well.
- Sugar is not the only reason for tooth decay
- Depending on how severe the tooth decay is tooth fillings or a root canal procedure is done.
- Educate yourself on the basic dental hygiene tips to keep cavities away.
- Prevention is better than cure. So follow the 5 steps to keep your oral cavity 100% bacteria free.