Oral health is an important part of our overall well-being. Therefore, taking the necessary steps to maintain healthy teeth, gums, and tongue is essential. Why, you ask? Because if you start neglecting your oral health, bacteria tend to develop, causing different oral health issues, including tooth decay.
And when you don’t manage your tooth decay early and take the necessary measures, you may experience tooth pain, infection, or even tooth loss. As such, staying informed on how to prevent tooth decay and its severity is important.
What Is Tooth Decay?
This oral health issue develops when bacteria in your mouth produce acids that erode your tooth’s enamel. This enamel is the protective outer layer of the tooth, and when it breaks down, it leaves the inner layers susceptible to decay. Should it be left untreated, tooth decay can lead to more severe issues like cavities, infections, and even tooth loss.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
The primary culprits behind this common dental issue include:
- Poor Oral Hygiene: When you are not consistent with your oral hygiene, plaque starts to accumulate on the teeth. This plaque then produces acids that contribute to enamel erosion, causing potential tooth decay.
- Dietary Habits: A diet high in sugars and carbohydrates provides fuel for bacteria in the mouth. Bacteria metabolise these sugars and release acids that contribute to the breakdown of the tooth’s enamel, making it more susceptible to decay.
- Dry Mouth: Saliva helps neutralise acids and ensures a healthy pH balance in the mouth. A dry mouth, often caused by certain medications or medical conditions, reduces saliva production and increases the risk of tooth decay.
What Are the Stages of Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay progresses through stages, and understanding these stages is vital for early detection and intervention.
1. Formation of Plaque
The initial stage of tooth decay begins with the formation of dental plaque. This sticky film develops when sugars and starches from the foods we consume aren’t promptly cleaned from our teeth. Bacteria swiftly feed on these remnants, leading to the formation of plaque. When allowed to linger on the tooth, plaque can solidify above or below the gum line, transforming into tartar. This hardened substance not only makes plaque removal more challenging but also acts as a protective shield for the bacteria, promoting their persistence.
2. Enamel Erosion
The production of acids due to bacteria in the dental plaque initiates the erosion of the tooth’s enamel. This protective outer layer gradually loses minerals, creating minuscule openings or holes in the enamel—a precursor to cavities. Once the enamel is compromised, the bacteria advances to the next layer of the tooth, known as dentin. Unlike enamel, dentin is softer and less resistant to decay, leading to heightened tooth sensitivity. The progression from enamel erosion to dentin exposure marks a critical phase in the development of cavities.
3. Progression of Tooth Decay
As tooth decay advances, the bacteria and acids originating from plaque infiltrate the innermost part of the tooth, where nerves and blood cells reside. This intrusion into the tooth’s pulp triggers inflammation and irritation, resulting in noticeable tooth pain.
In severe cases, the pain and damage may extend beyond the confines of the tooth’s root, affecting the surrounding bone. This can result in bone loss around the affected tooth and even impact neighbouring teeth.
How to Prevent Tooth Decay
Preventing tooth decay is a proactive approach that involves incorporating good oral hygiene practices and making lifestyle adjustments. Here are several effective strategies for preventing tooth decay:
1. Minimise the Consumption of Sugar and Starch
Foods with sugar and starch, such as candy and chips, can remain on the tooth surface, which promotes the formation of bacteria and plaque. As such, it is recommended that you go for fibre-rich fruits and vegetables, which can help keep your teeth and gums clean. It also keeps your saliva flowing, as chewing crunchy fruits and vegetables triggers saliva production. Beyond that, when there is adequate saliva in the mouth, it helps eliminate food and plaque from your teeth.
2. Regular Dental Check-ups
Routine visits to your dentist enable the early detection and prompt addressing of any potential issues, including the early signs of tooth decay. During these check-ups, your dentist can thoroughly examine your teeth and gums, utilising diagnostic tools to identify subtle indicators that might signify the onset of decay. Additionally, professional cleanings performed during these visits help remove plaque and tartar buildup, mitigating the risk of further dental complications.
Consuming lots of water throughout the day promotes proper saliva flow, which serves as a natural defence mechanism against tooth decay. Saliva also acts as a neutralising agent for acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, promoting a balanced pH level. Furthermore, saliva contains minerals such as calcium and phosphate, contributing to the remineralisation of enamel. Therefore, by staying well-hydrated, you create an environment that actively combats the harmful effects of acids, fortifying your teeth against decay.
4. A Proper Oral Hygiene Routine
Establishing and maintaining a proper oral hygiene routine is fundamental to the prevention of tooth decay and overall oral health. Consistently brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste helps remove plaque, the primary culprit behind decay, and maintains the cleanliness of your teeth and gums.
Additionally, daily flossing is crucial in reaching areas between teeth that brushing alone might miss, preventing plaque buildup and reducing the risk of decay. Incorporating an antiseptic mouthwash into your routine can also provide an extra layer of protection by killing bacteria and promoting a healthier oral environment. Together, these practices form a comprehensive defence against plaque accumulation and bacterial growth, actively safeguarding your teeth from the initiation and progression of decay.
Choose the Right Oral Care Products for Healthy Teeth
When it comes to your oral hygiene, it’s important not only to stay consistent but also to choose the right products to help protect your teeth, gums, and tongue. When choosing oral hygiene products, consider those that contain chamomile, rhatany, and myrrh.
Chamomile is known for its aspirin-like property, protecting teeth against tooth decay, periodontal disease, and tooth loss. On the other hand, rhatany, particularly the roots of the Ratanhia, are high in tannins, which help ease inflammation, redness, and infection in the mouth. Lastly, myrrh has antimicrobial properties that can help address the bacteria in the mouth and help with oral infections and inflammations. These aforementioned actives can be present in certain Japanese toothpaste for sensitive teeth and bad breath mouthwash in Singapore.
For more oral care tips, learn the factors that can cause bad breath.