WHAT IS DENTAL DECAY?
Dental decay happens when the enamel and dentine of a tooth become softened by acid attack after you have eaten or drunk anything containing sugars. Over time , the acid makes a cavity (hole) in the tooth. Dental decay is the same as tooth decay and is also known as ‘dental caries’.
WHAT CAUSES DENTAL DECAY?
Dental decay is caused by plaque acids that gradually dissolve away the enamel and dentine of the tooth. Decay damages your teeth and may lead to the tooth needing to be filled or even extracted.
WHAT IS PLAQUE?
Plaque is a thin, sticky film that keeps forming on your teeth. It contains many types of bacteria.
WHAT IS ENAMEL?
Enamel is the hard protective outer coating of the tooth and is the hardest part of the body. It does not contain any nerves or blood vessels and is not sensitive to pain.
WHAT IS DENTINE?
Dentine lies under the enamel, forming most of the tooth, and it can be very sensitive to pain. Dentine covers the central ‘pulp’ of the tooth.
WHAT IS THE PULP?
The pulp is a soft tissue which contains blood vessels and nerves and it is the middle of the tooth.
WHY DO MY TEETH DECAY?
Decay happens when sugar in food and drinks react with the bacteria in plaque forming acids. Every time you eat or drink anything containing sugars, these acids attack the teeth and start to soften and dissolve the enamel. The attacks can last for an hour after eating or drinking , before the natural salts in your saliva cause the enamel to ‘remineralise’ and harden again. Its not just sugars that are harmful other types of carbohydrate foods and drinks react with plaque and form acids. ( These are the ‘fementable’ carbohydrates such as the ‘hidden sugars’ in processed food, natural sugars like those in fruit, and cooked starches.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF DECAY?
In the early stages of dental decay there are no symptoms, but your dentist may be able to spot a cavityin its early stages when they examine or x-ray your teeth. This is why you should visit your dentist regularly, as small cavities are much easier to treat than advanced decay.
WHAT AREAS OF MY TEETH ARE MORE LIKELY TO DECAY?
The biting surfaces of the teeth and the surface between the teeth are most likely to decay, as food and plaque can become stuck in these areas. But any part of the tooth can be at risk.
WHAT TREATMENT WILL I NEED?
If the decay is not too serious, the dentist will remove all the decay and restore the tooth with a filling. Sometimes the nerve in the middle of the tooth can be damaged. If so the dentist will need to carry out root canal treatment by removing the nerve and then restoring the tooth with a filling or crown. If the tooth is to badly decayed that it cannot be restored the dentist may have to take the tooth out.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT DECAY?
The best way to prevent dental decay is by brushing your teeth thoroughly twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, making sure that you brush the inner, outer and biting surfaces of your teeth. Children up to three years old should use a toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1000ppm (parts per million). Three -year-old to adults should use a toothpaste that contains 1350ppm to 1500ppm of fluoride. Using ‘interdental’ brushesor dental floss or tape also helps remove plaque and food from between your teeth and where they meet the gums. These are areas an ordinary toothbrush cant reach.
HOW CAN MY DENTIST AND HYGIENIST HELP ME PREVENT DECAY?
Your dentist or hygienist will show you what areas you need to take most care of when cleaning. They will also show you how to brush and floss correctly.Back to blogs
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