Tooth Damage and Decay
Three things play a role in decay of teeth: the existence of plaque,
a susceptible tooth and food that contains starches or sugars.
What role does it play in tooth decay?
Dental plaque is made up of millions and millions of tiny clusters
of bacteria. It is the bacteria in the plaque that interacts with
the starches and sugars - fermentable carbohydrates - of food. When
the bacteria breakdown the sugars and starches, an acid is formed.
The fact that the plaque is sticky enables the acid to adhere to the
tooth enamel. Then the acid can attack the tooth's surface, the
enamel. The longer that the acid stays in contact with the surface
of the tooth, the greater the chance of decay developing.
It is the repeated exposure to the acid that causes decalcification
(or breaks down) the protective, strong enamel shell of the tooth.
Dentists recommend that you limit the duration of the exposure of
sugary foods and drinks. If you drink something such as pop, for
example, it is better to drink the entire thing, than to sip small
amounts throughout the day. When the mouth is continually exposed to
the acids, the decay then is able to penetrate the enamel, and
reaches the next layer of the tooth, the dentin causing tooth
sensitivity - most often the earliest sign of a deep dental cavity.
Because dentin is softer than enamel, the infection can spread
quickly throughout interior of the tooth. If the infection or decay
is not stopped at this point, the next area to be attacked is the
pulp cavity where the nerves of the tooth are located. When decay is
at this stage the patient will usually experience severe dental
pain, a toothache. If a toothache gets ignored, the result can be a
severe infection and the loss of the tooth.
There are many choices of sugar free foods to choose from these
days. Poor choices are pop with sugar, sugared gum, hard candies,
Routine dental examinations are the easiest way to allow your
dentist to examine the areas of your child's mouth that are
susceptible to dental decay. A patient who knows that a cavity is in
the process of developing may be able to stop it from forming. Some
of the preventive measures available today are: oral hygiene
(cleanings), professional fluoride treatments to strengthen teeth,
the use of fluoride rinses and the elimination of sugary foods and
beverages from the diet. When these measures are taken, a tooth may
be able to remineralize where the natural minerals in the saliva
help restore the hard enamel to its original, strong, protective