12 common concerns on tooth decay answered

What causes tooth decay?

The human tooth is made up of both the hard and the soft structures. The hard or the calcified parts are the enamel, dentin and the cementum. The soft parts are the pulp (Nerves) and the periodontal ligament (gums).

The enamel is the outer most layer of the tooth. This is almost 99% calcium and is very strong. Unfortunately, the acids from the bacteria and the plaque that accumulates on the tooth dissolve the enamel and eventually cause tooth decay. Once the enamel is destroyed, the softer dentin is destroyed much faster. Then the decay bacteria reach the inner pulp and the infection of the tooth sets in. This leads to pain in the tooth and swelling in the gums.

Are all black spots on my tooth a decay?

Not all black spots are decay. The chewing surface of the back teeth have some black lines and spots on them. These are the darker, normal developmental grooves and pits. These are susceptible areas for a decay to develop. Hence, it is important to visit your dentist regularly. Your dentist will check with his instruments for tooth decay.

Can cavities go away?

Tooth decay or a tooth cavity is an irreversible bacterial disease. A cavity, once formed, cannot be reversed. Tooth cavity has to be cleaned and filled by your dentist to prevent further spread of the decay. Hence, good oral hygiene habits of brushing and flossing two times a day is important to prevent tooth cavities.

Can a tooth decay make my teeth sensitive?

You can have sensitive teeth because of different reasons. Tooth decay is one of them. When you tooth has cavities, a considerable portion of your tooth is lost. This reduces the thickness of the protective layers of enamel and dentin. Your tooth nerves are now closer to the bacterial acids. This triggers a reaction in your tooth that causes sensitivity.

Can tooth decay cause pain?

Bacteria such a S mutans in the mouth start the decay process. The bacteria with the sugars in the food form a biofilm called “plaque” on the teeth. The bacteria remain protected in the biofilm. These bacterial acids under the plaque dissolve the enamel. Once the enamel is dissolved the softer dentin is destroyed rapidly. If the tooth is not treated with a filling at this point, the bacteria reach the innermost layer of the tooth called the pulp. Infection of the pulp with the bacteria causes tooth pain.

Do cavities spread?

Tooth decay is a bacterial disease. The acids produced by the bacteria dissolves the enamel and cause destruction of the hard structures of the tooth. The cavities are not contagious, but the bacteria that cause it can spread from one mouth to another through used cups, food or kissing. Within the mouth cavities can “spread” from one tooth to another due to close contact. For e.g.The decay that happens between two teeth can be on the contacting surfaces of both the teeth.

Do sugary foods cause tooth decay?

Foods that are rich in sugars and are sticky supply the bacteria with the  substrate to generate acids. The longer these food remains on your tooth surface, the greater is the chance of the tooth developing a cavity. And also the more frequently you eat these high sugar foods, the risk of tooth decay becomes higher. Hence your dentist will advise you to avoid in-between meal snacks, especially for children.

Can my tooth crack because of decay?

When a tooth is affected by the decay process and is not treated on time, a sizeable portion of the tooth structure is lost.This weakens the tooth . The possibilities of the tooth getting fractured or “cracked”is high.

When the outer hard tissues of the tooth are cracked, chewing can cause movement of the pieces, and the pulp can become irritated. Eventually, the pulp will become damaged to the point that it can no longer heal itself.

The tooth will not only hurt when chewing but may also become sensitive to temperature extremes. In time, a cracked tooth may begin to hurt all by itself. Extensive cracks can lead to infection of the pulp tissue, which can spread to the bone and gum surrounding the tooth.

How does a decayed tooth break?

Tooth decay begins as a small cavity or hole in the tooth due to the destruction of the hard substance of the tooth such as the enamel and dentin. If the cavity is not cleaned and filled at this point it progresses to eat away the rest of the tooth. When a substantial amount of the tooth is “eaten away” by the bacteria, the tooth becomes weak like a shell. This weakened tooth is prone to break or fracture under chewing pressure.

Can I avoid tooth decay?

Yes, you can avoid a tooth decay. Bad oral hygiene and plaque accumulation is the main cause of tooth decay. If you maintain good dental hygiene you can prevent tooth decay to a great extent. Brushing, flossing and regular visits to your dentist will help you have healthy teeth.

Can fluorides prevent tooth decay?

Your tooth surface can be altered by the fluoride. Fluoride replaces the calcium of your tooth and forms a much stronger structure. This new tooth structure is resistant to the bacterial attack. It is important to include fluoride as a topical application in your everyday routine.  Fluoride is supplied in the tooth paste. In children, a routine of topical fluoride application by the dentist has proven to be useful.

Does flossing prevent dental caries?

The basic shape of your tooth is narrow end towards the gums and the wider end towards the chewing surface. That makes the contact of the tooth with its neighbour only at a point.This is the point of contact of that tooth. Underneath the contact point a gap exists between all your teeth. This is an area that is inaccessible to the best brushes in the world!! This gap is a potential area for plaque accumulation. Use interdental cleaning aids like a floss or interdental brush to clean this space. Any unremoved plaque or debris in this area causes decay and gum problems.


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