Tooth decay, also called dental caries, is the breakdown of a tooth’s structure and is one of the most common health issues in the world. Since your teeth cannot regenerate themselves, decay will continue to get worse once it starts, unless you seek treatment. It’s important to practice good dental hygiene to prevent decay and to see your dentist if you notice any signs of an issue so that it can be resolved as soon as possible.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
When you eat foods that contain carbohydrates (sugars and starches), the bacteria in your mouth break them down into acids. These acids can combine with food particles, saliva, and bacteria to form plaque, a sticky substance that sits on the surface (enamel) of your teeth. The plaque will continually produce acid which, over time, breaks down the tooth structure. This will eat through the tooth enamel first and then progress into the dentin below. When this results in a hole in the tooth, this is known as a cavity.
Symptoms of Cavities
If you notice any signs of tooth decay, you should call your dentist to schedule an appointment.
These can include:
- New or increased tooth sensitivity
- Pain when biting down
- A visible pit or hole in a tooth
You should be aware that it is possible to have a cavity without noticing any symptoms. This is one reason why it’s important to visit your dentist for regular check-ups.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Dental Hygiene at Home
To prevent decay, practice good oral hygiene at home. Although preventive in-office care is beneficial, your day-to-day habits make a huge difference. You should brush your teeth twice daily using a soft-bristle brush. Make sure to clean all the different areas of your teeth, including the front, chewing surfaces, and back. Flossing is also incredibly important for your oral health and you should do this once a day.
How Your Dentist Helps Prevent Cavities
At your regular check-ups, your dentist will check for signs of decay and can address any issues before you even notice them. They also complete professional cleaning to remove dental plaque and calculus, which is a harder form of plaque. Fluoride treatments are common for children, although some adults can also benefit.
Treatments for Tooth Decay
One of the most common treatments for decay is a filling. In the past, these would be made of metal but recently, tooth-colored composite fillings are most common. At our dental office, we use our Solea Laser® to prepare the tooth for the filling.
If the decay is more advanced, a crown may be appropriate. This is a porcelain cap that covers and protects the tooth. The crown will be designed to look natural and match nearby teeth.
When decay is left untreated, it will continue to spread and damage the tooth more and more. After a while, this could progress to the point where extraction is necessary. If this is the case, your dentist can work with you to find a solution to replace the lost tooth. This could include a dental implant or bridge.
Dental Care in Oro Valley, AZ
If you suspect that you are suffering from tooth decay, contact our Oro Valley dentist office today.