Tooth decay is a very common symptom in most people. However, people who look after their teeth and have regular check-ups may have never experienced them.
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Leading orthodontist and former Dubai Health Authority consultant Dr. Ramesh Sabhlok says “Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic health condition in the UAE, affecting more than 80% of the population.” Sabhlok also says that most teeth related problems are caused by poor oral hygiene.
Poor oral hygiene doesn’t just cause tooth decay but can cause many other issues for your health as well. This is why you need to visit the dentist at least once a year.
Effects of Poor Oral Hygiene
- Frequent ulcers, sores, or tender areas in the mouth
- Loose or fragile teeth
- Bleeding or swollen gums
- Cracked teeth
- Receding Gums
- Teeth and mouth sensitivity to hot or cold food and drinks
- Teeth discolouration
- Severe dryness in the mouth
- Pain or toothache
- Chronic bad breath
- Pain with chewing or biting
Causes of Tooth Decay
There are multiple causes of tooth decay. People can, at times, have more than one cause of tooth decay. Identifying the causes is important to improving or preventing tooth decay from happening. Here are some of the most common causes.
- Smoking tobacco
- Poor brushing and cleaning habits
- Excess consumption of sugary or sweet food and drinks
- Diseases and illnesses such as diabetes and sexually transmitted diseases
- Use of medications that stop or decrease saliva production causing dryness
- Genetics or family history of poor oral health
- Hormonal changes in women
- Acid reflux, or heartburn
- The acidity from frequent vomiting
Stages of Tooth Decay
1: White Spots Will Surface
During this stage, this is when you will first notice irregularities in your teeth. Chalky white spots may appear on the surface of your teeth. This is due to the loss of calcium and the development of plaque. The bacteria from the plaque will then metabolize sugars consumed from food, deteriorating the surface of your teeth.
If you begin to notice this in your teeth, it’s best to treat it right away by improving your dental care regimen or visiting the dentist. If there’s any time to take action against tooth decay, this is your best chance to making sure tooth decay doesn’t develop into more serious matters.
2: Enamel Decay
During this stage, the enamel underneath the surfaces of teeth will begin to rot and decay. Natural remineralization of the body is not enough to strengthen or save the enamels and will lead to its slow deterioration. At this stage, the teeth’s surface will begin to crack and break apart.
Once this happens, it is irreversible. As soon as you notice cracks or splits in your teeth, you need to seek medical or dental attention immediately.
3: Dentin Decay
This is when your teeth being to decay as a whole and are referred to as dentin decay. If you’ve reached this stage, it means you have left your oral condition untreated.
This allows bacteria and acids to continue to dissolve your enamel, all the way to the dentin. The dentin is the part of the tooth found between the enamel and the pulp. Once decay happens in this area, you will feel sharp and intense pain in the affected area.
Once the enamel is at an extremely fragile state, dental cavities will begin to form. At this point, dental fillings are the only way for the tooth to be restored.
4: Involvement of the Pulp
The pulp, which is considered to be the tooth’s centre, is made up of living tissue and cells. When this part of the tooth gets affected by bacteria caused by tooth decay, pus will form, killing blood vessels and nerves inside the tooth.
When this happens, intense pain is the most common symptom and can last for long durations. At this stage of tooth decay, only dentists and health professionals will be able to improve the condition.
5: Abscess Formation
This is the final stage of tooth decay and is the most intense pain of all the stages. The abscess will begin to form in the affected area of the teeth. Once the whole tooth is infected, the conjoining bones within the gums are also at risk of infection.
Your gums, tongue and inner mouth will begin to swell up, causing difficulty in talking as well as eating and drinking. Those in this stage will often have slurred speech.
This also puts you at risk of getting other bacterial diseases or illnesses. At this stage, oral surgery is the best option.
6: Tooth Loss
If your teeth have reached this level, then the affected teeth need to be extracted from the mouth. As teeth rot and deteriorate in the mouth, it’s better to have them removed as opposed to keeping them in your mouth and posing the threat of other diseases or illnesses to your body.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Preventing tooth decay and preserving healthy teeth is not a hard task. You need to develop and stick to habits and proper oral hygiene regimens. Once you can do this consistently, your main concern will be keeping your teeth white as opposed to being in fear of having them removed.
Here are good habits to develop in preventing tooth decay.
- Brush well. This is the main way and most important oral hygiene tool when cleaning your teeth. It is recommended to brush your teeth after every meal for healthy teeth. However, a minimum of twice a day should put you on the safe side. Use a toothpaste that fights against cavities and bacteria that may cause damage to your teeth.
- Floss. Flossing is not often used as it may not be deemed as necessary. However, it may be something to consider as flossing also helps with removing bacteria or unwanted particles in your teeth that brushing may have perhaps missed. Flossing can also be done outside of the house and is convenient as opposed to carrying a toothbrush around everywhere you go.
- Causes of Tooth Decay. Tobacco products are a fast way to get your teeth to deteriorate at a quicker rate. Smoking does not only damage the cells in your teeth but can also cause other health problems in the future.
- Cut down on sweets. Sugary foods are notorious for damaging your teeth. Sweet foods such as candy, soda, and juices can help in the build-up of cavities and can burn the protective layer of your teeth. It’s best to moderate sugar consumption, especially in children who in particular, have a strong sweet tooth.
- Never skip a visit to the dentist. No matter how good or bad you are at managing your oral hygiene, only your dentist will be able to identify and manage your teeth’s true condition. By visiting the dentist once a year, you’ll be able to stay up to date with the condition of your teeth as well as making sure they are in tip-top shape, preventing decay and cavities from occurring at all.
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