5 Things You Need to Know About Tooth Decay: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Avoid tooth decay

How do you reduce your chances of tooth decay?

Tooth decay and cavities can seriously impact your smile and your overall oral health. These common issues affect nearly everyone at some point. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Here’s everything you need to know about decay and what you can do about it.

1. Tooth Decay and How It Develops

Your teeth are covered by a hard outer layer called enamel. This protects the softer dentin inside and the pulp and nerve tissue at the core of your teeth. However, there are constant threats that can erode enamel.

Bacteria that are naturally present in your mouth secrete acid when they metabolize sugar. This acid wears away at your enamel. It removes important minerals like calcium, allowing the structure of your enamel to weaken and decay.

At normal levels, bacteria don’t pose a significant threat. However, they can form plaque deposits on your teeth, especially in hard-to-clean areas, like between them and at the gumline. These deposits allow bacteria to thrive in greater numbers, posing a serious threat of tooth decay in those areas.

This eventually leads to enough enamel wearing away to form a cavity, a noticeable hole in your tooth. The cavity provides further shelter for bacteria, letting them advance tooth decay even further. Eventually, the cavity can break through the enamel, allowing decay to affect the softer layers inside.

2. Common Causes and Risk Factors for Decay

A lack of oral hygiene plays a key role in most cases of tooth decay. Inadequate or improper brushing and flossing allow plaque deposits to form and bacteria to grow. This increases the rate at which your teeth experience decay.

Your diet has a major impact as well. Sugary food and drink provide more energy for bacteria to grow. Acidic food and drink, such as soda, juice, and coffee, directly contribute to wearing away your enamel.

A lack of fluoride exposure, whether through routine dental treatment, toothpaste, or fluoridated water, puts you at a higher risk of tooth decay as well. Fluoride aids the remineralization process, building up the calcium in your enamel before it can be further damaged.

Orthodontic issues and other dental problems can provide more nooks and crannies for bacteria to form plaque deposits. Low saliva levels, often called dry mouth, can lead to tooth decay as well, because saliva has natural antibacterial properties.

3. Tooth Decay and Cavity Prevention Strategies

While there are many potential causes of tooth decay, there are also plenty of steps you can take to ensure your health. Proper brushing and flossing are among the most important. Make sure to brush twice each day, covering all of your tooth surfaces. When you floss, clean all of the spaces between your teeth.

Making sure that you get enough fluoride is important as well. Most toothpastes contain fluoride, although some have more than others. You can also consider a fluoride mouthwash. Limiting sugary and acidic food and drink can also go a long way.

Visiting your dentist once every six months helps prevent decay and other oral health issues. Routine dental cleanings remove plaque and tartar deposits that are too hard to remove through regular brushing. Your dentist will also be able to catch signs of tooth decay and recommend intervention as early as possible.

4. Recognizing Early Signs of Decay

You should watch for signs of tooth decay and reach out to your dentist as soon as you notice any. Increased tooth sensitivity or pain can often indicate tooth decay. Tooth discoloration is also a common sign. The earliest stage of decay appears as white spots on your teeth. Darker spots can indicate more advanced decay.

As a cavity starts to form, you may notice a visible pit or hole, depending on its location. You may also be able to feel it with your tongue. A cavity can cause sharp pain when biting or chewing. Give your dentist a call to set up an appointment if you believe you may have a cavity.

5. Tooth Decay Treatment Options

Prevention is the best approach. Using fluoride treatment and dental sealants to protect your teeth are the most effective steps. However, there are effective options to treat tooth decay at many stages. A simple cavity can typically be resolved with a dental filling, depending on its location and severity.

Advanced decay may require a root canal treatment to prevent infection. Depending on the level of damage, you could need a dental crown to ensure the strength and integrity of the decayed tooth.

Find your personalized treatment plan at Farless Dental Group.

Whether you’re dealing with the symptoms of tooth decay now or looking for a proactive approach to prevention, the team at Farless Dental Group has you covered. We are your Greensboro dentist for routine care and custom treatment plans to resolve cavities and tooth decay. Schedule an appointment today for your personalized treatment.