Tooth decay, or cavities, is a common dental problem that affects almost everyone. While you may be familiar with the basics, you may not know everything that causes it. Tooth decay is caused by bacteria, sugar, and poor oral hygiene. While we wish there wasn’t a lot to it, more to this dental dilemma that meets the eye.
In this post, we’re going to talk about some unusual and intriguing facts about tooth decay. Did you know for instance that cavities are not a modern problem, or that tooth decay can reveal a lot about your diet? Many more tooth decay dangers are uncovered in this post, so keep reading!
Interested in learning more about flossing? Check out this Flossing For Kids 101 post!
What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay, also known as dental caries or cavities, is damage to the surface of a tooth, specifically the enamel. This damage occurs when bacteria in your mouth produce acids that attack the enamel, the hard, outer layer of your teeth. Most of the time, the person who has tooth decay doesn’t even know it’s there!
What causes tooth decay?
- Poor Oral Hygiene – Not brushing your teeth regularly or correctly can lead to plaque build-up, which is the primary cause of tooth decay.
- Frequent Snacking – Constantly eating throughout the day, especially sugary or starchy foods, gives bacteria more fuel to produce acids that attack tooth enamel.
- Sugary and Acidic Foods and Drinks – Consuming high amounts of sugary or acidic foods and drinks can accelerate tooth decay. This includes soda, candies, citrus fruits, and more.
- Not Getting Enough Fluoride – Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making teeth more resistant to acid attacks. Not getting enough, either from your drinking water or toothpaste, can increase your risk.
- Dry Mouth – Saliva helps wash away food particles and neutralize acids. Conditions that reduce saliva production, like certain medications or health conditions, can increase the risk of tooth decay.
- Eating Disorders – Both anorexia and bulimia can lead to significant tooth erosion and cavities due to repeated vomiting.
- Tobacco Use – Smoking or using smokeless tobacco can lead to dry mouth and gum disease, both of which can contribute to tooth decay.
- Age – Tooth decay can occur at any age, but the risk increases as you get older. This is partly because gums recede over time, exposing more of your teeth to potential decay.
- Certain Medical Conditions – Conditions that cause acid reflux can lead to tooth decay, as stomach acid can erode tooth enamel. Diabetes can also increase the risk of cavities.
- Lack of Regular Dental Visits – Regular check-ups and cleanings can catch early signs of tooth decay, preventing it from progressing further.
Fun Facts About Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases, second only to the common cold. It’s also very easy to avoid if you take the time to brush.
Surprisingly, candy alone doesn’t cause cavities. It’s the prolonged exposure of sugar to teeth that contributes to tooth decay. So, it’s not just what you eat but how often you eat as well.
Tooth decay can start in babies even before their teeth appear. This happens when decay-causing bacteria are transferred from caregivers or family members through saliva.
Nearly 90 percent of adults between 20-64 years old have experienced tooth decay in their permanent teeth.
Brushing twice a day isn’t always the best way to prevent cavities. The timing and technique of brushing matter more than frequency.
Acidic foods can also cause cavities, not just sugary ones. The acids in these foods can erode the enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay.
Plaque and high acidic levels in the mouth are primarily responsible for tooth decay.
Despite being largely preventable, tooth decay is a serious problem and can significantly impact your oral health if left untreated.
How to Solve the Tooth Decay Problem
When you find out there’s tooth decay in your mouth, you may be wondering how the problem can be solved. Well, there are tons of solutions available, you will need to speak with your dentist to figure out the best solution for you!
Fluoride Treatments – Fluoride is a mineral that can repair tooth enamel and prevent further decay. Treatments can come in the form of a gel, foam, varnish, or liquid.
Fillings– Also known as restorations, this is the most common treatment for cavities. The dentist will remove the decayed tooth material and fill the area with different materials such as silver amalgam, composite resin, or porcelain.
Crowns– For severe decay or weakened teeth, a crown, or cap, may be needed. The decayed or damaged portion of the tooth is removed and repaired, and then a crown is fitted over the remainder of the tooth.
Root Canals – If decay reaches the inner pulp (containing nerves and blood vessels) of the tooth, a root canal may be necessary. In this procedure, the damaged pulp is removed, and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed, and then the tooth is usually capped with a crown for protection.
Tooth Extractions – Some teeth may be so severely decayed that they cannot be saved and must be removed. The extracted tooth can be replaced with an implant, bridge, or denture to restore appearance and function.
These unusual facts about tooth decay are fun to learn about, but treatment can be tough on kids. Use these facts about tooth decay as a tool to help keep your teeth healthy! If you have questions, you can always give Dr. Topping and his staff a call.