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What causes tooth decay?
Tooth decay, or dental caries / cavities, is the result of a breakdown in tooth structure due to bacteria. Our mouths are full of different kinds of bacteria, and some of these can combine with food particles to form plaque. This process helps to break down food, but if plaque builds up, it can also break down the surface of the tooth.
What are the symptoms of tooth decay and cavities?
Tooth decay is apparent when the surface enamel of the tooth breaks down, resulting in holes known as cavities, as well as brown and black discolouration, and toothache. The bacteria can then continue to the dentine (which lies beneath the enamel) and ultimately, the pulp of the tooth, where the blood vessels and nerves are contained. Tooth decay also results in bad breath, unpleasant taste in the mouth, and sensitive teeth. The place to look out for decay is at the back of the mouth, where the molars that do the hard work of chewing takes place.
How can I prevent dental decay and caries?
The best solution to ensuring that you don’t get tooth decay is to ensure you have a good dental hygiene regime. Brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing regularly, and chewing sugar-free gum or brushing after meals will all help to keep plaque and bacteria at bay. Regularly visit the dentist for routine check ups to ensure any issues are dealt with in a timely fashion. In addition to this, it is advisable to eat a balanced and healthy diet, low in sugary foods like chocolate, and sugary drinks like fruit juices and fizzy drinks. Alcohol also contains sugar, and leads to the formation of plaque, while smoking can interfere with the production of saliva.
What is the treatment for it?
If the tooth decay is minor, then it can be dealt with by removing the decay itself, and inserting a filling. If the nerve at the heart of the tooth is affected, then it may be necessary for the dentist to perform root canal treatment. Once this has been done, a crown or filling may be applied. If the tooth is badly damaged by decay, it may have to be removed altogether.