Many people view a radiant smile as a sign of confidence, health, and beauty. However, dental caries, also referred to as tooth decay, is a hidden threat that lurks behind those beautiful whites. This common dental disease gradually erodes the tooth’s enamel, the hard outer layer, causing cavities, discomfort, and possibly even tooth loss if treatment is not received.
Dental caries can seem like an unavoidable part of life, but it’s important to understand that it can be effectively managed with regular dental care and good oral hygiene.
In the UK, dental caries is a significant public dental health issue, with around 20% of adults and 45% of children aged 5 to 9 years old experiencing tooth decay.
Dental caries are largely influenced by lifestyle, nutrition, and dental hygiene. Poor oral hygiene and a diet high in acidic and sugary foods can raise the risk of tooth decay. Likewise, cavities can be avoided with a balanced diet, consistent brushing and flossing, and routine dental exams.
Primary Culprit: Do you know?
Sugar and acidic foods are the primary culprits in the formation of dental caries. When bacteria in the mouth come into contact with sugar, they produce acids that attack the tooth enamel. Over time, this can lead to the breakdown of enamel and the formation of cavities.
Commonly Sources of Hidden Sugars
Processed foods, drinks, and condiments are common sources of hidden sugars. Typical sources of sugars with hidden calories include:
- Cereals for breakfast
- Fruits in cans
- Juices from fruits
- Sweetened coffee beverages
- Dressings for salads
Signs and Symptoms of Dental Caries
Early indicators of dental caries can be unnoticeable and easily missed. The following symptoms become more apparent as decay advances:
Initial Symptoms and Signs
- Spots of colour on the tooth surface are white or brown
- Mildly sensitive to foods that are hot, cold, or sweet
Symptoms Increase as Decay Proceeds
- Cavities, or obvious holes in the teeth
- Discomfort, particularly when drinking or chewing
- Discoloration of teeth
- Foul breath
Causes of Dental Caries
The main causes of dental caries are
- Sugar: When sugar is converted by oral bacteria into acids, tooth enamel is weakened and cause carries then after while cavities are created.
- Acidic foods: A few acidic foods and drinks have the direct effect of weakening tooth enamel, increasing the risk of bacterial erosion.
- Bad oral hygiene: Not getting enough brushing, flossing, or dental exams can cause plaque to accumulate, which harbours bacteria that produce acids and cause cavities.
- Salivary flow: The production of saliva, which typically helps in neutralising acids and protecting teeth, can be decreased by smoking, certain medical conditions, or medications that cause dry mouth.
- Genetics: Dental caries may be more common in people who have specific genetic predispositions.
- Fluoride deficiency: Strong tooth enamel requires fluoride. Tooth decay risk may rise if there is insufficient fluoride in the food or water.
Treatment for Dental Caries
Dental fillings are used to repair decayed tooth structures. A variety of materials, such as amalgam, composite resin, and glass ionomer cement, can be used to make fillings. First, the decayed tooth material is usually removed, and then the cavity is filled with the selected material.
Treatment with Root Canal
A root canal procedure is needed if dental caries have infected the tooth’s pulp. In order to stop further infection, the diseased pulp tissue must be removed, the root canals must be cleaned and shaped, and the canals must be filled.
Crowns and Other Restorative Measures
For severely damaged or decayed teeth, crowns or other restorative measures may be required. Crowns are tooth-shaped caps that cover the entire tooth, while other restorative measures include inlays, onlays, and bridges.
Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that are placed in the cracks and grooves of teeth, especially the more decay-prone molars and premolars. By acting as a barrier to keep acids and bacteria out of these vulnerable spots, these sealants lower the chance of tooth decay.
Topical treatments known as “remineralizing agents” aid in strengthening and replenishing the hard outer layer of teeth, or tooth enamel. These agents replenish the minerals lost as a result of bacterial acid attacks by containing vital minerals like calcium and fluoride.
Remineralizing agents come in the form of gels, rinses, or toothpastes. They are especially helpful for those who are at a high risk of getting cavities or who have early signs of tooth decay.
Nanoparticles loaded with antibacterial agents can be directly applied to tooth surfaces, providing a localised and sustained release of the drug to combat caries-causing bacteria.
Key Note: Complete Healthy Smiles
Tooth decay can be avoided with a balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Certain foods can help maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Examples of these foods that are high in:
- Calcium, such as dairy, leafy greens, and fortified foods
- Vitamin C-rich foods, such as bell peppers, strawberries, brussels sprouts, kiwi, and citrus fruits
- Fluoride, such as fish, tap water, and toothpaste that has been fluoridated
Developing Habits of Oral Hygiene
Plaque is a sticky biofilm that contains bacteria and worsens tooth decay. The removal of plaque requires using the right brushing and flossing techniques.
- Brushing Technique: Use fluoride toothpaste and a toothbrush with soft bristles. Brush all surfaces of teeth twice a day for two minutes each time.
- Flossing Technique: Where the toothbrush cannot reach, use floss to clean in between teeth and under the gum line. Floss once daily.
Though Dental caries is a treatable condition, you can drastically lower your risk of tooth decay and have a healthy smile for the rest of your life by following the suggested preventive measures and practising good oral hygiene.
At Dental Lounges Dental Clinic, we’re dedicated to giving our clients the best possible dental care. To prevent and treat dental caries, we provide a variety of services, such as:
In addition to offering dental services, The Dental Lounges Dental Clinic is your partner in creating smiles that will last a lifetime. By getting in touch with our knowledgeable staff, we cordially encourage you to prioritise your oral health even more. Schedule an appointment to receive tailored treatment that is tailored to your specific needs.