Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is most commonly associated with dental cavities and is the second widely most known human disorder. Caused by bacteria in the mouth, tooth decay can lead to minor problems such as foul breath, cavities, and sensitive gums to much more serious issues such as loose teeth (periodontis) and infection of the gums (gingivitis).

To understand any form of tooth decay, one must understand the root origin and this is bacteria formation. Bacteria naturally live all throughout our body. Our mouth has many naturally occurring bacteria and in addition produces more bacteria from broken down sugars through the food we consume. Broken down sugars convert into what is known as "dental plaque" or what can be visibly seen as a white, sticky substance on the surface of the tooth. These sugars further break down into acids which once stuck on to the side of a tooth's enamel, removes the minerals. This process is described as "demineralization" and starts to decay the tooth.

The most vulnerable parts of the tooth for decay are the areas where the enamels fold inwards, the gum lines and especially the teeth in the back of the mouth called the "molars". The demineralization process can take months or years to form a cavity or an even worse condition. Things such as brushing teeth in between meals, cutting down on sugary foods and using dental floss will decrease the likelihood or time for tooth decay to occur. Fluoride in toothpaste also aids in prevention by hardening the mineral compound of the tooth.

Tooth decay can also be noticeable by a yellow or brown discoloration and may be softer in composition during a dental examination. An x-ray is capable of detecting a cavity as well as determining its depth into the tooth. If tooth decay progresses to the point of becoming a small hole, it can simply be plugged with a metal material to prevent further decay. This procedure is performed during a routine visit at a dentist's office.

If the tooth decay has penetrated through the tooth and into the gum, a root canal must be considered. The procedure involves drilling through the center of the tooth, removing the tissue below the gum including the root and nerve. This is a much more sensitive method as it requires manipulation near the sensitive nerve endings in the gums.

Gingivitis is a dental disease caused by inflammation of the gums surrounding the teeth due to long term plaque deposits at the base of the teeth known as tartar. This affects the health of the gums and will result in bleeding and sore gums. Recommended scheduled cleanings and careful oral hygiene is highly recommended to combat this very treatable condition in the early stages.

If Gingivitis is left untreated or becomes worse it is usually known as Periodontis. Periodontis is when the tissues and bones that hold the teeth become inflamed themselves. This becomes dangerous because as these connective supports become weaker, the patient becomes more likely to lose a tooth.

Despite the degree of tooth decay, there is treatment for every type of malady. Since all tooth decay is caused by bacteria formation, hygiene is of utmost importance. From brushing of teeth after eating, regular flossing, recommended dental cleaning, cavity check-ups and use of fluoride, your teeth will not only remain healthy if cared for properly, but stay white and strong for years to come.