Tooth Decay has unfortunately been part of our normal lives due to the foods that we intake in this modern age. Sugar might be more affordable and accessible than ever before, but sadly, it’s just as bad for our health and the health of our mouth. Too much sugar too often causes tooth decay, a disease which is so common but almost totally preventable. In this article we tackle some facts about tooth decay, treatment options, and answer some lingering questions that you may have about dental cavities.
Ten facts about tooth decay
- Dental decay is caused by the things we eat and drink. Consumables such as chocolate, sweets, fizzy drinks and fruit juices all generate plaque acids that gradually dissolve away the enamel and dentin of the tooth.
- If plaque is allowed to build up, acid can begin to break down the surface of your tooth. This can cause holes known as cavities, as well as gum disease, and in severe cases abscesses and tooth loss.
- Added and hidden sugars are commonly found in processed food and fruit, and are a threat to our teeth. The more sugar you consume, the likelier the chances of obtaining dental decay.
- In the early stages of dental decay there are no symptoms, but your dental team can spot cavities in the early stages when they examine or x-ray your teeth.
- The biting surfaces of the teeth and the surfaces between the teeth are most likely to decay. This is because food and plaque can become stuck in these areas. Any part of the tooth can be at risk.
- Having frequent sugary snacks and drinks can increase the risk of decay, because your teeth come under constant attack and do not have time to recover.
- Nearly three in four (74%) of adults have had a tooth removed. This equates to more than 60 million people.
- More than one in four (27%) only visit their dentist when they have a problem and around one in seven (14%) are frightened to visit the dentist. This can often lead to tooth decay going undiagnosed.
- Public Health England (PHE) statistics (6th April 2018) found that a child in has a rotten tooth removed in hospital every ten minutes, which is around 141 children a day.
- The cost to the NHS of removing severely decayed teeth in under-18s has escalated over the last five years, by almost 20%.
Five tips for preventing tooth decay
- One of the best ways to prevent tooth decay is by brushing your teeth thoroughly before bedtime and at least one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Make sure that you brush the inner, outer and biting surfaces of your teeth. Using ‘inter-dental’ brushes, or dental floss or tape, also helps to remove plaque and food from between your teeth and where they meet the gums. These are areas an ordinary toothbrush can’t reach.
- Visit your dental team regularly, and take your children, as often as your dentist recommends. Your dental team is better equipped to spot problems before they develop into something more serious. This makes treatment quicker, easier, less invasive and less costly.
- Try replacing sugar-containing foods with healthy and nutritious alternatives that are lower in sugar or even better sugar free. Avoid snacking between meals, to limit the number of times your teeth are under attack from acids.
- Always check ingredients. Generally anything within a product with ‘ose’ in the name is a sugar, for example: sucrose, maltose, fructose, glucose, lactose and dextrose. If any food or drink you pick up contain these ingredients, steer clear.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tooth Decay
Can tooth decay be fixed?
Absolutely. Depending on the extent of the decay the following treatment options may be recommended by your dentist.
If the extent of the cavity to too large, your dentist may recommend a tooth extraction followed by a tooth replacement option with either a dental bridge or a dental implant.
What happens when your teeth decay?
A tooth cavity begins with sugar deposits on your teeth. Bacteria take in these in and excrete acids that begin to eat away at your tooth structure. If the decay is not detected by a dental professional and treated, it will continue to grow until it eventually reaches your nerve tissue. If the cavity is detected early on, a tooth filling will be the treatment of choice to fix your tooth cavity. If the cavity gets larger, a dental crown and even a root canal may be needed. Cavities that have extended too far will lead to tooth extractions for patients.
What are the stages of tooth decay?
The stages of decay depend on how far the cavity has penetrated into the tooth structure:
- Stage 1: Cavity forms and enters the enamel (the outer layer of the tooth)
- Stage 2: Cavity penetrates into the dentin (the second layer of tooth structure). If it enters this stage it can start to spread more rapidly.
- Stage 3: Cavity penetrates from the dentin into the nerve chamber. Once it enters this stage a root canal or a tooth extraction will be needed to treat the tooth.
What happens if tooth decay is left untreated?
A tooth cavity that is not treated can grow through the tooth structure. Not only is there a possibility of you losing your tooth due to the caries, but a dental infection can form in the area and possible spread to other regions of the body.