The Tooth Decay Process: How to Reverse It and Avoid a Cavity
Most likely, everyone hopes not to get a cavity. Dental cavities are a common oral health problem that luckily can be prevented. Cavities form as a result of dental plaque. Plaque is composed of bacteria that thrive on the sugars we consume in our foods and beverages. These bacteria release harmful acids that cause tooth decay and permanent damage to the surfaces of teeth. In the early stages of tooth decay, demineralization of tooth enamel occurs. If untreated, the decay can advance in size and eventually impact the inner layers of teeth, the dentin and the pulp. As the inflammation gets worse, this can result in tooth sensitivity and discomfort. This bacterial infection can lead to a whole host of serious oral issues, such as dental abscesses, gum disease, and tooth loss.
On the bright side, cavities can be prevented by implementing good oral hygiene techniques. This will save you a lot of pain and money by avoiding having to have additional dental work performed.
Here are a few simple ways that can help you avoid developing cavities:
- An important step in preventing cavities is to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least daily to remove food debris and dental plaque. Use a toothpaste containing fluoride, which is a natural mineral that helps fight against tooth decay. Depending on your cavity-risk and fluoride exposure, your dentist may even recommend additional fluoride treatment, including in-office application or prescription fluoride toothpaste. Anti-bacterial and fluoride containing mouth rinses can also be a great addition to your daily oral hygiene routine.
- Your dentist may recommend dental sealants to help lower your risk of developing a cavity. Sealants are placed on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to help cover grooves that often trap food and plaque.
- Chewing sugarless gum with Xylitol is recommended to help stimulate saliva flow and swish away food particles when you’re on-the-go. It has also been found to help lower the amount of harmful bacteria in your mouth.
- Visiting your dentist regularly for examinations and cleanings is key to keeping your oral health maintained. Your dental professionals will identify and help you manage any active tooth decay or pathology before issues become more severe.
- What you eat makes a huge difference to your teeth. Foods and beverages high in sugar and acids encourage tooth decay. It is best to maintain a nutritional diet with tooth-friendly foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Frequent snacking should be avoided to help limit excess exposure to a sugary and acidic environment that oral bacteria love. Also, be sure to stay hydrated with water, preferably from the tap which typically has the benefits of fluoride.
The initial stage of demineralization has the capability of being reversed. Demineralization is often characterized by a white chalky spot on the teeth. It is particularly important to practice good oral hygiene which may help remineralize the enamel. Your dentist may also recommend fluoride exposure to help remineralize and strengthen the enamel.
If you feel that you are experiencing signs and symptoms of a cavity, such as tooth aches and sensitivity, visible holes in the tooth, or brown, black, or white discoloration on the surfaces of your teeth, it is important to let your dental professionals know right away. Once tooth decay progresses, a dental professional will need to initiate treatment to remove the tooth decay. Depending on the severity of the decay, your dentist may recommend treatment including a dental filling, root canal treatment to remove the infection inside the tooth, and/or a dental crown to help improve the lifespan of the weakened tooth. In severe cases, removal of the tooth may be recommended and options to replace to tooth will be discussed.
By Heather Smith