Adult Tooth Decay
We all hate to hear that our dentist has found new cavities since our last visit. Cavities are areas of decay on teeth, and they can form on any surface of a tooth. To repair a cavity, the decay must be removed and replaced with a man-made substance. How can you deter decay? First, you must understand what causes tooth decay.
A healthy mouth contains natural, good bacteria that neutralize acids and help clean up food particles. This bacteria and your saliva also help strengthen areas of demineralization on teeth by restoring the minerals that protect teeth from decay.
Sometimes bad bacteria, accumulating in plaque, can disrupt a healthy mouth’s balance. Made from mucus, saliva, decaying food, and bad bacteria, plaque is a sticky substance that can build up on your teeth. Harmful bacteria in plaque emit an acid that eats away tooth enamel to create cavities. This acid can eat into the tooth, through the enamel, through the dentin, causing pain where nerves and blood vessels are vulnerable. Often a cavity that grows to affect the dentin too deeply may require a root canal or even extraction. In short, tooth decay can kill teeth.
To prevent tooth decay, see your dentist twice each year for a thorough cleaning and oral exam. At home, you should brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush after each meal and floss daily. Mouthwash and fluoride rinses can help destroy harmful bacteria and re-mineralize teeth. Of course, staying away from foods high in sugars and starches will help too, since bad bacteria consider these two items a delicacy.
If you have small cavities, get them filled as soon as possible, before they grow and cause extensive damage. Professional fluoride treatments and dental sealants can also help deter tooth decay. Some patients have more problems with plaque than others. We’ll gladly help you understand the particularities of your mouth and recommend ways to prevent bacteria and tooth decay.