Tooth decay is often referred to as a tooth cavity. Tooth decay is known to be caused by sugary foods. But why does this happen? Why is it that sugary foods cause tooth decay?
What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is considered an infection by Dentistry.com1. A tooth cavity is formed by certain bacteria that live in your mouth. This bacteria combines with saliva to form plaque, the film that covers your teeth.
When you eat starchy or sugary foods, the bacteria in plaque consume the carbohydrates. These bacteria then release acid. According to Dentistry.com1, this acid causes the ph level in your mouth to drop. With a lowered ph, the acid can start to eat away at your teeth to cause tooth decay.
At healthyteeth.org2, it is explained that any sugar you eat also allows the bacteria to grow faster and increase the amount of plaque in your mouth. So both plaque and sugars play a vital role in the development of a tooth cavity.
Other Causes of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is an increased risk for people who produce less saliva from smoking, some diseases and some medical treatments1. If you think you are not producing enough saliva, talk to your dentist about ways to prevent tooth decay.
Some people naturally have a lower ph level in their mouths1. If this is true for you, you should talk to your dentist about options to combat this problem before you develop a tooth cavity.
Symptoms of Tooth Decay
Sometimes there are no symptoms of tooth decay until it gets very bad. After tooth decay has eaten through the enamel, or outer layer of a tooth, it can cause a tooth cavity that may cause pain or sensitivity to temperature or sweet foods.
Sometimes you may see tooth decay during your daily dental care. If there is no pain, the tooth decay may not have gone beyond the enamel. You should still see your dentist as soon as possible to check for tooth decay.
How Do I Treat Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is best treated with prevention, which will be discussed below. However, if you already have a tooth cavity, it should be taken care of as soon as possible. A tooth cavity can’t heal itself and the tooth decay must be removed by a dentist.
What Will the Dentist Do for a Tooth Cavity?
The dentist will check for tooth decay with a visual exam. He or she will then use a tool to check suspicious areas of a possible tooth cavity. X-rays may be needed to detect the presence of tooth decay.
If you have a tooth cavity, the dentist will use a drill to remove the tooth decay. Then he or she will fill in the tooth cavity.
Special Concerns if Tooth Decay is Left Untreated
An untreated tooth cavity will continue to erode possibly leading to the need for a root canal. This is a costly procedure.
Untreated tooth decay can cause gum disease. Symptoms include red or swollen gums and persistent bad breath.
Since tooth decay is considered an infection and is caused by bacteria, if left unchecked it can cause other infections in your mouth such as an abscess. A tooth abscess can cause pain and swelling in the mouth, face or throat. On occasion, an abscess in the mouth caused by tooth decay can spread into the bloodstream. This will cause the infection to spread to other parts of the body which can cause more serious infections.
How to Prevent Tooth Decay
The best way to prevent a tooth cavity from forming is to take care of your teeth. Dentistry.com recommends brushing your teeth three times a day with a fluoride toothpaste. They give instructions on the proper way to brush your teeth to prevent tooth decay1. Flossing once a day is also important to prevent tooth decay from forming between your teeth.
Dr. Dan Peterson of Family Gentle Dental Care3 recommends using a toothpaste with baking soda, hydrogen peroxide or both to help prevent tooth decay. Although more studies are needed, each of these products has been shown effective in limiting the bacteria responsible for causing tooth decay3.
You can also prevent tooth decay by limiting sugary or starchy foods from your diet.
Dental sealants can be applied to the teeth to give added protection from acids that can cause tooth decay. Many schools have programs where your child can receive dental sealants at little or no cost.
The best way to prevent tooth decay and developing a tooth cavity is prevention. Take care of your teeth and see your dentist twice a year. Don’t wait if you suspect tooth decay. You should see your dentist as soon as possible. Your health may depend on it.
THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND SHOULD NOT REPLACE THE ADVICE OF A DENTIST OR YOUR PHYSICIAN.
1) Dentistry.com; Guide to Dental Cavities and Fillings; www.dentistry.com
2) Healthyteeth.org; Cavities: What about Sugar?; www.healthyteeth.org
3) Dr. Dan Peterson, Family Gentle Dental Care; Tooth Decay; www.dentalgentlecare.com