You've probably heard it called many things: cavities, dental caries, baby bottle tooth decay. But no matter what it's called, tooth decay isn't fun.
Tooth decay is an oral disease that destroys your teeth. Second only to the common cold, it affects the majority of the population, with children and seniors most at risk. More than 90 percent of Americans have experienced a cavity at some point in their lives, and decay is a major cause of tooth loss.
With tooth decay so common, we can understand why you'd want to know more about it -- particularly the causes of tooth decay and how a dentist can cure tooth decay damage. Becoming informed about this disease is a great first step in making sure it doesn't wreak havoc in your mouth.
Causes of Tooth Decay
The causes of tooth decay stem mainly from what we eat and how we care for our teeth. Tooth decay results from a buildup of dental plaque bacteria. Plaque is a sticky, film-like substance that continually forms on teeth and harbors bacteria. When they meet with starchy or sugary foods, they produce acids that attack teeth.
If plaque isn't removed, it turns into dental tartar, or dental calculus, a hardened deposit of plaque on teeth and beneath the gum line. The problem is, you can't remove tartar on your own -- no matter how hard you brush. The result is that tartar becomes a breeding ground for even more plaque bacteria, which continues to produce the acids that attack teeth. Eventually this breaks down tooth enamel, leading to the holes in teeth known as tooth decay.
How Tooth Decay Pictures Help
Before you can cure tooth decay, you've got to know it's there. Sensitive teeth may be a sign of a cavity; a toothache is usually a sign of decay that has progressed to the center of the tooth. But if you don't feel any discomfort, it doesn't mean you're in the clear: Tooth decay is usually painless, and may not produce any signals until it has damaged a significant part of your tooth.
Dentists check for signs of decay during regular dental visits. Because the early stages are almost impossible to notice with the naked eye, dental X-rays can produce tooth decay pictures that help with proper diagnosis. These tooth decay pictures locate cavities between teeth and find tartar beneath the gum line. Tooth decay pictures are created in just a few minutes and aren't painful. Once your dentist can view the tooth decay pictures, he or she can determine the appropriate treatment.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: A Problem for Parents
Tooth decay is an epidemic in young children. It starts as early as infancy with baby bottle tooth decay, which is caused when babies are exposed to sugary substances -- like milk, formula and juice -- on a frequent basis. The more children are exposed to these things, the greater their risk of baby bottle tooth decay. The simplest way to help prevent baby bottle tooth decay is by keeping baby's mouth clean and not letting baby go to sleep with a bottle.
Fluoride and dental sealants are commonly used to help prevent decay in children's teeth. Fluoride strengthens teeth and is often added to toothpaste and public water supplies. Sealants are a clear, plastic coating that are applied to molars to prevent plaque from forming.
How to Cure Tooth Decay
The only way to cure tooth decay is with professional dental treatment. Hopefully, your decay will be diagnosed early enough to be replaced with a tooth filling. If the cavity is too large to fill, a dental crown may be necessary.
While a dentist can cure tooth decay damage, do your part to prevent it in the first place. Oral hygiene is the first step: Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste will help remove plaque, and flossing daily will help keep decay from forming between your teeth. A balanced, low-sugar diet is also essential in protecting yourself against plaque buildup.
If you'd like to learn more about the causes of tooth decay and what you can do to prevent it, talk to your dentist. During dental cleanings, your dentist can clear away plaque and tartar build up, helping to cure tooth decay in its earliest stages.