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Tooth decay

What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is a dental problem that varies in severity, depending on how far it has been left to progress. It is caused by bacterial wastes from acid in the mouth, which damages the enamel of the teeth, compromising its structure and leading to cavities – holes in the teeth. If left untreated, tooth decay can have serious consequences, such as abscesses and loss of teeth.

Even though our teeth can seem indestructible, they are only made up of calcified minerals with some nerves and soft tissue inside, acids and bacteria can do a lot of damage to the enamel surface – which is more vulnerable that it might first appear. Whilst sudden impact or pressure can fracture teeth, the leading reason for tooth extraction in the UK is tooth decay.

How does tooth decay occur?

Acid is the main culprit when it comes to tooth decay, it causes demineralisation of the enamel layers – which means it softens their hard structure and rots the tooth through to its core. It’s not acids from food and drink that causes decay – although they don’t help – it’s actually the waste products of the bacteria that live in plaque that do the most damage.

When the tooth is completely destroyed and the inner pulp is exposed to infection, this usually means a root canal or an extraction is necessary. The good news is that it’s not something that will cause your teeth to fall out overnight, there’s a slow lead up to complete tooth decay and you can stop the problem in its tracks by making an appointment with your dentist and improving your oral hygiene. If you’re worried about tooth decay, talk to a member of the team at the Pearl Dental Clinic, they are always happy to offer advice and tips on how to keep your teeth in good condition – and avoid developing problems like tooth decay in the future.

How does plaque affect tooth decay?

Plaque creates the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to thrive in, not only that, but it also prevents the acid produced by the bacteria from being washed away easily, causing even more damage to the tooth’s enamel. If you don’t brush and floss, the bacteria will multiply and plaque will start to build up in increasing amounts, causing various other problems that are difficult to undo in the later stages.

How can I fight tooth decay?

It’s simply a case of watching what you put in your mouth on a daily basis. Food and drink are obviously a necessity, but sugary foods are to blame for most cases of tooth decay – fizzy drinks in particular are to be avoided. Minimise the amount of sugar you have in your diet and, if possible, replace it with artificial sweeteners, and don’t forget to keep up with your cleaning routing; brush and floss twice daily to remove any plaque build up where bacteria could be hiding. However, don’t brush too hard or you could damage your gums. It’s impossible to remove one hundred percent of bacteria from your mouth, and not all of it is bad, but exposing your teeth to sugary acids regularly is a definite way of encouraging bacteria growth that can lead to tooth loss.

Make an appointment with your dentist to have your teeth checked every twelve months or sooner if you’re worried about something, and they will be able to advise you on the best form of defence, as well as spotting the early symptoms of the disease – such as tooth sensitivity, discoloured spots on the teeth, and bad breath.

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