Tooth decay, commonly known as cavities, is one of the most common health conditions faced by individuals in Sacramento and worldwide. Children, teenagers, adults, and even infants can experience tooth decay. Tooth decay causes an area of your teeth to break or damage and develop small cavities or holes. Cavities damage the hard surface of your tooth permanently.
Tooth decay is a result of multiple factors. People who consume lots of sugar-rich foods during the day are at a higher risk of developing cavities than those who consume them in moderate amounts. Moreover, people who aren’t proactive about their oral hygiene and health are also at a greater risk of developing cavities.
If the cavities aren’t treated on time, there is a massive risk of more severe damage and even tooth loss. When the decay reaches the tooth’s deeper levels, it causes severe infection, toothache, and possibly tooth loss. That is why you must take your oral hygiene seriously and visit your dentist for check-ups regularly.
Suppose you’re concerned about your oral health or have begun to experience the symptoms of tooth decay. In that case, you may be wondering whether it is reversible. In this articl3, we are going to share all the information that you need about tooth decay. So, keep reading to learn more!
What are the Symptoms of Tooth Decay?
When you know about the symptoms of cavities and tooth decay, then you’re better prepared to tackle the issue in time. The symptoms of tooth decay vary from person to person and the condition of their teeth.
In the beginning stages of the development of a cavity, you may not experience any symptoms. However, as the decay grows deeper, you will begin experiencing signs of decay and symptoms.
Here’s how you can identify tooth decay:
- Sudden and severe toothache without any apparent cause
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Experiencing sharp pain while drinking or eating something, cold, hot, or sweet
- Experiencing pain while biting food
- Staining on the surface of your teeth
- The appearance of pits or holes in your teeth
What are the Different Stages of Tooth Decay?
The process of tooth decay happens over time in the form of different stages. There are a variety of factors that contribute to tooth decay at each stage. Let’s take a look at how the decay develops:
Stage #1: Beginning of Demineralization
Your teeth are covered by an outer layer called enamel. Enamel protects your teeth and is the hardest tissue that surrounds them. It is a tissue that is made up of minerals.
When the decay of the tooth begins, the enamel starts to weaken and lose its minerals. This results from the development of plaque bacteria that expose the tooth to acids that disintegrates the minerals in the enamel.
During the demineralization stage, you may notice white spots appear on the affected tooth. This is the initial sign of the decaying process in your tooth.
Stage #2: Decay of Enamel
Suppose the problem isn’t identified and prevented in the first stage. In that case, the enamel will continue to break down and sustain further damage. The white spots slowly begin to turn darker and become brownish in color.
When the enamel is damaged this much, the tooth begins to disintegrate and forms small holes called cavities. Suppose you intervene at this stage and visit your dentist right away. In that case, they can prevent further damage and reverse the process by filling your cavities.
Stage #3: Dentin Decay
After the enamel, the decay of dentin occurs. Dentin is a softer issue that lies under the enamel. It is much more sensitive to acid damage, so when the decay reaches this layer, the tooth deteriorates at a much faster rate than before.
Dentin consists of tubes that are connected to the nerves of the tooth. As a result, when the dentin is damaged and decayed, the tooth becomes sensitive. So, you’ll experience increased sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweet foods and drinks.
Stage #4: Pulp Damage
The pulp is the most inner part of the tooth. It contains all the blood vessels and nerves that keep your tooth healthy and alive. These nerves are also what cause a sensation in your tooth.
When your pulp sustains damage, it swells and irritates. Since other teeth surround the pulp, the swelling puts pressure on the nerves and can cause severe pain.
Stage #5: Formation of Abscess
When the tooth decay reaches the advanced stage of damaging the pulp, the bacteria begin to cause an infection. The tooth becomes increasingly inflammable and leads to the formation of pus pockets at the tooth’s bottom. This pus is known as an abscess.
The formation of abscess causes severe pain that may extend into the jaw. Your gums may also swell along with your jaw and face. This can also cause fever and swollen lymph nodes in your neck.
If the tooth isn’t treated immediately at this stage, the infection can spread quickly and damage the jaw bones and other areas near your head and neck. If it gets severe, you may have to get your tooth removed entirely.
Can you Reverse Tooth Decay?
There is no clear-cut way of reversing tooth decay entirely. However, suppose it’s identified in its early stages. In that case, your dentist may be able to prevent permanent danger and treat it. If the decay has just begun, you can prevent and even stop it by taking active steps to ensure the best oral hygiene and health.
If you start brushing and flossing regularly and washing your mouth with fluoride-mouthwash during the demineralization stage, you can prevent tooth decay. Make sure you visit your dentist for regular cleanings as well.
When Should You See a Dentist?
It would be best if you visited your dentist regularly for checkups and cleaning so that they can identify any signs of decay right away. Dental cavities aren’t easily identifiable in their early stages, so only a dentist can spot them. Additionally, whenever you notice any symptoms or pain, you must visit your dentist right away.
What Increases the Risk of Tooth Decay?
Although most people are at risk of developing cavities, some factors make you more prone to it. Let’s learn about some of them in further detail below:
1. Location of the tooth
Molars and premolars are the most at risk of developing cavities and tooth decay. This is because they have several pits and roots in which food particles can get collected. That is why it is more challenging to keep them clean compared to the more reachable front teeth.
2. Habit of Frequent Snacking
Suppose you have a habit of snacking on sugary foods and drinks. In that case, the bacteria in your mouth feed on them and produce acids that damage your tooth and accelerate the decay process. Soft drinks and soda are like a continuous supply of acid to your mouth.
3. Choice of Diet
Certain foods cling to your teeth longer than others. Suppose your diet includes foods like milk, sugar, cookies, dry cereal, honey, ice cream, soda, chips, and desserts in a large quantity. In that case, you’re at a higher risk of developing cavities.
4. Inadequate Oral Hygiene
If you don’t clean your teeth and mouth correctly and adequately, plaque will begin to form. As a result, your teeth will decay quickly. Brushing, flossing, and taking care of your oral hygiene is essential for reducing the risk of tooth decay.
5. Lack of Fluoride
Fluoride is a natural mineral that is the most effective at preventing cavities and tooth decay. If your toothpaste and water don’t include fluoride, your teeth become more likely to develop cavities. Make sure you buy a mouth rinse and toothpaste rich in fluoride to prevent tooth decay.
6. Your Age
Although cavities are common in people of all ages, some ages are more at risk than others. Young children, teenagers, and older adults are the most at risk of cavities. If you belong to any of those age groups, you need to be more vigilant about your oral hygiene.
7. Dry Mouth
If you have a dry mouth condition, you’re at a higher risk of cavities and tooth decay. The saliva in your mouth prevents tooth decay by removing foods and plaque from your teeth. Saliva also contains substances that counteract the acid produced by bacteria.
Visit your dentist and figure out the reason for your dry mouth. Some medicines, health conditions, and treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy can all cause dry mouth, which increases the risk of cavities.
8. Worn fillings
If you wear a dental device, such as a worn filling, it can weaken, break down, and create rough edges. As a result, plaque starts building upon them quickly, and it becomes challenging to remove it. When dental devices don’t fit well anymore, plaque develops underneath them and t causes the tooth to decay.
9. Bedtime Feeding
Infants have a higher risk of developing cavities when they are fed just before bedtime. Whether you feed them milk, formula, or juice, all contain a high quantity of sugar and attach to the teeth for a long time, causing bacteria to produce plaque.
10. Eating Disorders
If you have eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, it can cause your tooth to decay and form cavities. When a person vomits repeatedly, the stomach’s acid washes over the teeth and damages the enamel. Moreover, these eating disorders also cause dryness in the mouth, which leads to tooth decay.
If a person has heartburn, known as GERD, it can bring out the stomach fluid to flow into the mouth and wash over the teeth’ enamel. As a result, the teeth are damaged and begin to decay. Make sure you consult with your dentist about your condition.
How to Prevent Tooth Decay?
Here are a few preventive tips that will help you protect your teeth from decay and cavities:
1. Brush and Rinse your Teeth with Fluoride-Rich Paste and Rinses
If you want to prevent cavities and tooth decay, then you need to ensure that you wash your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride-rich toothpaste. Make sure you floss after it to clean the space between your teeth. Additionally, consider rinsing your mouth after having meals. Choose a mouthwash that contains high quantities of fluoride.
2. Visit Your Dentist Regularly
Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and professional teeth cleaning, so any severe problem can be prevented timely. At the very least, visit your dentist every six months.
3. Consider Getting Dental Sealants
Sealants are protective plastic coatings applied over the surface of the back teeth. These sealants cover all the crannies and pits in your molars and protect the enamel from plaque and acid. Dentists recommend sealants for young children to protect their teeth from decay.
4. Drink Water with Fluoride
Instead of bottled water, consider switching to tap water because it contains fluoride and other minerals. The fluoride will keep your teeth protected from plaque formation and eventual decay.
5. Avoid Snacking Frequently
If you want to keep your teeth healthy and clean, you need to control your eating habits. Reduce sugary items from your diet. Make sure you’re not snacking frequently throughout the day.
6. Choose a Healthier Diet
An unhealthy diet plays a significant role in developing cavities in your teeth. Make sure you’re choosing healthy options that contain low to no sugar.
Consider Antibacterial Treatment
If you have a medical condition that makes your teeth vulnerable to decay, then consider consulting with your dentist about a possible antibacterial treatment to remove harmful bacteria from your mouth.
Although you can’t reverse already damaged tooth decay, you can certainly prevent it by maintaining good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist regularly in Sacramento.
If you’re experiencing tooth decay symptoms, then get in touch with Dr. Owyoung at Soft Touch right now for expert consultation and treatment!