Dental caries: how and why does it happen?
What Are Dental Caries?
The term dental caries is the medical term for cavities or tooth decay. When a hole develops in a tooth this is a cavity. If it’s left untreated, the hole gets bigger and the larger parts of the tooth are destroyed.
Continued tooth destruction can lead to loss of part or all the teeth. Untreated dental caries can also lead to significant health problems.
What Causes Caries?
Our mouths are full of bacteria. Bacteria is important for starting the digestive process of breaking down food. Poor dental hygiene can cause these bacteria to become harmful.
When you eat or drink, the bacteria reacts with the food. The mixing of sugar with bacteria creates an acid. This acid attacks the teeth for 20 minutes each time sugar is present.
Bacteria also combines with food particles left on the teeth. When this food is not removed, the bacteria can begin to form plaque leading to tartar.
What Is Plaque?
Plaque is a very sticky film that builds up on teeth. It may have no color or be a pale yellow. When food, liquids, and saliva mix with the bacteria, this film can begin forming on the teeth. This occurs most often where the teeth and gums meet.
These bacteria create an acid that harms your tooth enamel and gums. If this is not removed from the teeth, they become damaged and stained.
What Is Tartar?
When plaque remains on the teeth, it mineralizes and forms tartar. This as a hard, yellow or brown build-up that can’t be removed with a toothbrush. As people get older, tartar development becomes an increased problem.
The tartar bonds to the enamel and causes it to breakdown. Only a dental professional can remove tartar using special tools.
Are Some People More Susceptible to Caries?
Yes, some individuals have a greater risk of developing dental caries. This may be due to genetics, which influences tooth shape and saliva quality. People with deep crevices in the teeth often have more trouble with cavities.
Individuals with certain diseases have an increased risk of cavities. These include diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases that cause the immune system to attack normal cells.
Some diseases make it difficult for individuals to practice effective dental hygiene. Examples include Alzheimer’s Diseases, dementia, and Rheumatoid arthritis.
Medications, including vitamins and herbs, can impact your oral health. It’s important to tell your dentist about all medications and supplements you take.
Some medications can decrease your saliva production. Saliva is important to help wash food and fluids off your teeth. Examples of these medications include antihistamines, decongestants, and pain relievers. Other prescribed medications include muscle relaxers, antidepressants, and treatments for Parkinson’s disease.
How to Decrease Dental Caries
Practicing good oral hygiene is your best defense against cavities and tooth decay.
Brush with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Using fluoride toothpaste helps to prevent the buildup of plaque on your teeth.
Clean between your teeth once a day. Your toothbrush can’t remove all the food particles between your teeth. Use floss or an interdental brush to clean the gap between your teeth at your gum line.
Rinse with a fluoride mouthwash. Rinsing your mouth can help remove harmful bacteria and particles in your mouth.
Visit your dentist every 6 months. Even the best oral hygiene practices can not completely prevent plaque buildup. Dental professionals provide a thorough cleaning and can identify and treat problems early.
Try not to snack or sip frequently. Every time sugar enters the mouth, it combines with the bacteria to form acid. This starts a 20-minute acid attack on the enamel of your teeth.
If you snack and sip sugary drinks throughout the day, your teeth are under constant attack. The enamel weakens and can form holes. The bacteria get in the holes and cause tooth decay.
Eat and drink at “one sitting”. Then drink plenty of water and/or brush your teeth.
Healthy eating habits help your body fight infection more effectively. Decreasing sugar-laden foods improves your dental and general health. Fresh fruits and vegetables and unsweetened beverages increase your saliva flow.
Consider fluoride treatments if recommended by your dentist. If you do not get enough fluoride via other sources, your dentist may recommend a fluoride treatment.
Consider antibacterial treatments. If you have a high risk for tooth decay, your dentist may suggest using antibacterial mouth rinses. This can help decrease the harmful bacteria in your mouth.
How Are Cavities Treated?
When cavities occur, you need a dentist to repair the damage. Early intervention helps prevent increased damage and health problems.
Your dentist will begin by taking X-rays to look for any tooth decay. If a cavity is present, the dentist removed the damaged part of the tooth with a special drill. Your tooth is then filled with a silver or composite resin.
Many dentists give your some type of numbing or sedation medicine before beginning this procedure. This makes the procedure painless and helps you relax.
Medical Problems Related to Oral Health
Maintaining good oral health is not just about having white teeth. When bacteria get into the gums, they can enter the bloodstream.
This can lead to infections in the heart and blood vessels. As a consequence, you are at increased risk for heart disease, strokes, and a blood infection called sepsis. This can lead to death.
Are You Having Problems with Your Teeth?
If you have toothaches or swollen gums, it’s important to see a dentist immediately. Allowing dental caries to go untreated can lead to increased damage.
Park Fee Dental offers general dentistry treatment and dental implants. You have the option of having dental procedures performed under sedation or with general anesthesia. Our staff uses hospital-grade anesthesia machines and monitoring devices during all procedures.
Contact us today to ask questions and learn more about our services.