- A Quick Guide To… -
DENTAL CARIES (DECAY)
Tooth decay, (technically called dental caries), results in cavities in the teeth. It is one of the most common diseases in the world today. When bacteria, saliva, bits of food and other natural substances build up on teeth, they form a sticky film called plaque. Plaque bacteria convert sugars and carbohydrates in the food and drink we consume into acids, and these acids dissolve the minerals in the surface enamel of the tooth. Once the acids have penetrated the outer protective layer of tooth enamel, the bacteria can enter the next layer of the tooth called the dentine. Dentine is much softer than enamel and makes up the bulk of the tooth. The bacteria are able to directly damage it, and if left unchecked, can even penetrate to the tooth pulp, thus infecting the nerves and blood vessels within.
When decay is in the early stages you may not have any symptoms. However, if the decay is left to penetrate through the dentine, you may experience sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet things.
As the decay becomes deeper the pain may intensify. It can be a dull pain or throbbing. If the decay reaches the dental pulp, the pain can become piercing, continuous and unbearable.
In the early stages there may be white or brown spots on the surface of the tooth. If this is left untreated, a visible hole will develop. You may also experience bad breath and an unpleasant taste in your mouth.
You can help prevent caries with good oral hygiene, and by having a healthy diet. This includes brushing your teeth and gums with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day and using dental floss or interdental brushes once a day to clean between your teeth. When plaque is left in situ, it turns into tartar (calculus) and we may then recommend that you see one of our hygienists to have this removed. The hygienist will also be able to help you improve your oral hygiene to try and prevent future problems.
Your diet plays a huge part in the prevention of caries. It is very important that you reduce the amount of acid in your mouth by limiting how often you eat cariogenic foods.
Some people suffer from gastric reflux, in which digestive acid from the stomach comes back up towards the mouth. This commonly presents as heart burn, and an acidic sour taste in the mouth may also be detected. Sufferers may also develop a sore throat, dry cough, or become hoarse due to irritation of the throat tissues by the acid. As well as being bad for the teeth, frequent reflux damages the oesophagus which connects the mouth to the stomach. It is important to discuss this with your GP if you get this with any degree of frequency.
Heathwood Dental Practice
1 Kings Road, Crowthorne,
Berkshire. RG45 7BF