Most Common Causes of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is an extremely common problem that will affect almost everyone at some point during their life, regardless of how well they look after their teeth. It's essentially damage that occurs when bacteria that is present in our mouths make acids which eat away at our teeth. When this happens, it can cause the patient a number of problems including pain, infection and even tooth loss.
The anatomy of the tooth
A tooth is made up of three layers:
- The enamel: the hardest, outer layer.
- The dentin: the softer, middle layer.
- The pulp: in the very center of the tooth and contains nerves and blood vessels.
When it comes to decay, the more layers of the tooth that are affected, the worse the damage is, and the greater the treatment that will be required to restore the health and function of your teeth.
Symptoms of tooth decay
Some of the most common symptoms of tooth decay include:
- Toothache. This can be a continuous pain or an acute, sudden pain that appears and disappears without warning.
- Sensitivity. You may experience pain when eating or drinking something particularly cold, hot or sweet.
- Bad breath.
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth.
- Dark spots appearing on your teeth.
If you have any reason to believe you are suffering from tooth decay, you should seek an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
Most common causes of tooth decay
There are many factors that contribute towards tooth decay, but ultimately the real cause is the bacteria that is present in our mouths.
How does bacteria cause tooth decay?
Everything that we eat and drink contains microscopic bacteria, which enter our mouths and stick to our teeth, gums, tongue and other soft tissues. However, not all consumables were created equal, and when you eat or drink foods that are high in sugar, the bacteria turn the carbohydrates into energy that they need to thrive, producing acid at the same time. It is for this reason that dentists state that too much sugary food and drink is especially bad for your teeth.
If the plaque is allowed to build up on your teeth, the acid within it will go to work on your teeth, breaking it down from the outside and going through layer after layer until it penetrates the pulp. At this stage, your nerves become exposed to the bacteria which can cause infection and a great deal of discomfort.
Factors that increase your risk of developing tooth decay
There are a number of things that increase the likelihood of plaque acids from attacking your teeth and causing tooth decay.
Not brushing and flossing regularly
Brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day is the very best thing you can do for your dental health. Brushing and flossing regularly helps to remove the bacteria before it has the opportunity to do damage to your teeth. Use a soft brush and clean them for at least two minutes every morning and night. Flossing will remove bacteria that become stuck in those hard to reach crevices between your teeth.
Not using a bacteria-killing mouthwash
Mouthwash acts as another line of defence against tooth decay. Rinsing using a bacteria-killing brand of mouthwash will rid your mouth of any lingering bacteria and leave your teeth feeling fresh and clean.
Consuming too much sugar
Sugary treats may taste good, but too many could spell disaster for your teeth as any foods that are high in carbohydrates feed the bacteria in your mouth, allowing it to spread and cause further damage.
Not having enough saliva
Although there are some medical conditions that cause a person not to produce enough saliva, dehydration and aging can also contribute. Saliva is the mouth’s natural defence against plaque acid, so staying hydrated and chewing gum can help to protect your teeth from decay.
Not only is smoking a seriously bad decision for your overall health, but it also dramatically increases your chances of developing tooth decay thanks to a greater build-up of stubborn tartar – a harder, stickier form of plaque – and gum recession.
Steps you can take to minimize your risk of tooth decay
Tooth decay can be painful, debilitating and expensive. However, you can minimize your risk of developing cavities in your teeth by:
- Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly.
- Using a bacteria-killing mouthwash daily.
- Stopping smoking.
- Cutting back on sugary foods and drinks.
- Staying hydrated.
- Chewing gum between and after meals.
You should also ensure that you attend your regularly scheduled check-ups with your Denver dentist, Dr. Barotz who will be able to spot any signs of decay and arrange for you to have the necessary treatment to prevent it from worsening. For more information or to make an appointment with your dentist in Denver, call Barotz Dental at 720-573-1500.