Tooth decay, also known as ‘dental caries’ or more commonly, a ‘cavity’, is a bacterial infection of the teeth that hampers its hard tissue. When we consume food, some of the food particles tend to accumulate in our mouth. These food particles are broken down by the process of ‘bacterial fermentation’. During bacterial fermentation, the bacteria produce organic acids that break down the food particles. When plenty of acid is produced, the pH level drops and the acid dissolves carbonated hydroxyapatite, the main component of tooth enamel. It leads to the formation of large pores or cavities in our teeth. Medically, the process is referred to as ‘demineralisation’ and it eventually results in tooth decay.
Signs and symptoms
It is common for tooth decay to go unnoticed as a lot of people are unaware of the symptoms. Usually, the first sign of tooth decay is the appearance of a white spot on the tooth’s surface. The mark indicates the initial stages of demineralisation and is called a ‘micro-cavity’. As the demineralisation progresses, the white spot turns brown and eventually forms a full blown cavity. Once the decay goes beyond the enamel, it exposes the tooth’s nerves resulting in severe pain during the consumption of hot, cold or sweet food. When there is further progression of the decay, the pulp tissue in the centre of the tooth gets exposed to bacteria creating constant pain.
Tooth decay can also cause bad breath and leave a foul taste in the mouth. In some rare cases, the infection can lead to other serious complications.
The treatment for tooth decay mostly depends on the severity of the problem. Dentists usually encourage preventive treatment, such as regular brushing, flossing, and re-mineralisation using fluoride toothpaste, to inhibit tooth decay.
However, in progressive cases, there are various treatments to tackle the issue of tooth decay. Some of them include:
• Fillings: After removing the decay, dentists use materials such as alloys, metals, plastic, porcelain or composite materials to fill the hole or cavity. It is done to restore the tooth to its original state.
• Porcelain Crowns: A crown or a cap is an artificially made replacement for the damaged parts of a tooth. In severe cases, the affected area of the tooth is replaced with a crown or cap.
• Root canal treatment: A root canal is carried out to remove the infected pulp of a tooth.
• Extraction: An extraction is done when the root of the tooth has undergone extreme damage. Here, the entire tooth is replaced with an implant or a bridge.
Book a visit at Smile Artistry
If you are suffering from tooth decay, please visit Smile Artistry for a consultation. Our team of highly experienced dentists will assist you by providing you with the right diagnosis and the best treatment using the latest dental techniques.
Our Approach to Decay
At Smile Artistry™ emphasis is placed on “TOTAL” dental care, and to do so we take a comprehensive look at all aspects of a patient's dental needs. Our specifically designed Decay Management Programs can be individually created for patients who suffer from a high decay rate, indicated when new areas of decay exist in more than a few places in your mouth.
Tooth Decay is Preventable!
Our Decay Management Program investigates all of the contributing factors associated with tooth decay. A consultation with our Dental Hygienists will identify which factors are contributing to causing decay, and recommendations and modifications to the cause can be made. This will prevent further dental decay developing, meaning less fillings in the future.
The areas we examine include:
- Oral hygiene
- Levels of Decay forming Bacteria
- Stress levels
- Fluoride exposure
- Hobbies/interests impacting on dental health
- Medication and Medical Conditions
In this day and age, our diets contain high levels of sugars. It is these sugars that feed plaque bacteria in our mouths that then create acids that cause dental decay or holes in our teeth. When we consume sugars, there is a lasting pH change for a period of up to two hours after we eat or drink if we haven't cleaned our teeth. Depending on how our saliva functions it may take longer or shorter than two hours for the pH to neutralise to above 5.5. It is largely the number of sugar hits per day that leads to large amounts of dental decay, and two different diets are compared below:
The first diagram shows that of someone who eats three meals per day at 6am, 11:30am and 6pm in the evening. It is for over an hour after each meal that the acidity in their mouth is decreased and once below 5.5 pH demineralisation (decay can occur). This person is exposed to three hours of demineralisation per day.
In comparison, someone who snacks constantly during the day on sugar containing drink of food is shown in the diagram below. This person consumed sugar at 6am, 8am, 11am, 2pm, and 5pm. The hours of demineralisation or decay is more like seven hours per day.
During our Decay Management Program we take these principles into account and can educate on why there is decay in your mouth and not someone else's.
For your Decay Management Appointment please note:
It is recommended that the saliva and bacteria tests be carried out in the morning. We advise you not to eat, drink or brush your teeth prior to the appointment. This is important as any foods (including chewing gum) or drink may alter the results. If however your appointment is scheduled later during the day, please restrain from eating, drinking and brushing your teeth at least three hours before your appointment.