Dental decay is essentially the weakening/softening of the tooth structure, sometimes to the point where holes are visible in the teeth. Decay can appear as dark and discoloured areas of the teeth, but it can also be completely invisible to the naked eye. Generally the amount of infected tissue is much larger than the damage seen from the tooth surface – rather like what you see of an iceberg from above the water, compared to what you see below the surface.
How does decay form?
Bacteria (the fuzzy stuff we call plaque), continually builds up on the teeth. When the bacteria combines with sugar, it produces acid which breaks down protective minerals in the teeth. This leads to soft, infected tissue breakdown in the teeth.
How can you prevent dental decay?
As they say, prevention is better than cure – which is always true in dentistry!
Follow these ten simple steps for a brighter, healthier, decay-free smile.
We know you’ve heard it before, but visit your dentist every 6 months for a general check up. This will help to pick up on decay early and potentially work towards reversing it or treating it (if it is no longer reversible).
Brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day – and brush them well. Your dental health professional can advise you on techniques that will work best for you. Consider occasionally using plaque-disclosing tablets or drops to show up any areas that need special attention.
Decay can really build up between teeth, so floss your teeth once a day to remove plaque and debris from those hard to reach areas.
Use tooth mousse. When spread over the teeth, tooth mouse will remineralise small areas of decayed enamel and help prevent future decay. The results will need to be closely monitored over several months by your dentist.
Reduce how often and how much processed sugar you consume. You may consider keeping a food diary to find out where the sugar content in your diet is coming from. Remember, there are many hidden sugars in the food and drinks we consume.
Eat foods that are high in calcium like yogurt, milk and cheese. (This is most beneficial to children with growing teeth and bones).
Avoid sticky sugars and keep any consumptions of sugars to meal times, when saliva flow is highest and can help to flush away some of the sugar content.
Chew sugar free chewing gum to further stimulate saliva flow (provided you do not have jaw pain, as this can be worsened with chewing gum).
Allow your children to drink unfiltered water. Despite what you may read, here in Perth our fluoride levels are carefully monitored and controlled so that developing teeth receive optimum levels of fluoride. These levels of fluoride are safe for consumption, and help the formation of strong, healthy enamel to prevent decay.
No one likes to pay for things they don’t need – especially when visiting the dentist! But, if your dentist advises dental X-rays to diagnose hidden decay, take this advice. Because much decay is invisible to the naked eye, X-ray is the only way of seeing into the tooth structure to assess decay, without first drilling into it!
Is decay treatable?
In some cases, if diagnosed early enough decay is reversible. If decay is too severe or advanced for reversal, the affected tooth may require a filling. In extreme cases, extensive decay can lead to root canal infection, which can only be treated with root canal treatment or extraction of the infected tooth.
To avoid the need for treatments such as these, follow our 10 simple steps and prevent decay from ever forming in the first place!
Time for a check up?
Contact the friendly team at The Smile Clinique to book your next general dental health check.
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