Definition of tooth decay
Tooth decay which is also known as dental caries is a bacterial infection that occurs in the mouth and one of the most widespread persistent diseases today and it is as well one of the most preventable. When you eat certain foods, the bacteria on your teeth breaks them down and produces acids that have the ability to seriously damage the hard tissues of your tooth thus,
Tooth decay is the softening of the tooth enamel and destruction of the tooth structure which can be caused by acids that are created when plaque bacteria break down sugar in your mouth. Tooth decay occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as breads, cereals, milk, soda, fruits, cakes, or candy are left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth digest these foods, turning them into acids. The bacteria, acid, food debris, and saliva combine to form plaque which then cliques to the teeth.
What are the causes of tooth decay:
- Poor oral hygiene; which can occur when you don’t brush your teeth regularly
- Formation of Plaque
- Dry mouth; saliva helps to wash plaque from teeth, but if you have a dry mouth with very little saliva, plaque may build up more quickly.
- Bacteria and acid; bacteria naturally live in your mouth, when they digest the carbohydrates that linger on your teeth and in your mouth, there is formation of acid.
- Medical problems; for example, vomiting causes acid in the stomach to flow back into the mouth and this may create a cavity in the tooth. Some type of cancer treatment that expose the head and neck to radiation can promote a tooth cavity by changing the makeup of the saliva to promote bacterial growth.
What are the signs and symptoms of tooth decay;
- Pain in the tooth/teeth or toothache
- Pus around a tooth
- A visible hole in your tooth
- Increase in tooth sensitivity
How to prevent tooth decay;
- By brushing your teeth regularly with fluoride toothpaste
- Eat fewer sugary and acidic foods, like sweets, candy, juice, soda etc.
- Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacking between meals
- Check with your dentist about the use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth.
- You can consider getting dental sealants on your teeth
- Drink fluoridated water
- Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exam.
The following foods can help to combat tooth decay;
- Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables
- Calcium-rich foods
- Fluoridated water or water with fluoride
- Unsweetened black or green tea
- Xylitol sugarless chewing gum