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Tooth Decay

Tooth decay

Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases affecting humans. It is known by a variety of names such as tooth decay, dental caries, dental cavity, dental decay etc. Tooth decay is simply demineralization of the tooth structure caused due to release of acids by pathogenic bacteria over a period of time.

Tooth Decay Causes

There are various causes of tooth decay. Some individuals seem to be more prone for tooth decay while others seem to be quite resistant. However, there are a few factors that increase the risk for tooth decay.

-Poor oral hygiene maintenance is the leading cause for tooth decay as this favors growth of decay causing bacteria.

-We have all heard how consumption of chocolate can cause tooth decay. It’s just not chocolate though. All starchy foods, carbohydrate rich foods or sugary foods/drinks increase the risk factor for tooth decay. It’s not just the nature of the food, but the stickiness of foods that makes a difference. A food containing large amount of carbohydrate which is sticky and likely to remain in the mouth long after its consumption increases the likelihood of dental caries.

-Saliva plays an important role in prevention of dental caries. Saliva inhibits dental caries by many mechanisms like cleansing action, anti-bacterial activity etc. Reduction of salivary production (Xerostomia or dry mouth) predisposes one to development of tooth decay.

Dental Caries Symptoms

Tooth decay is difficult to self-diagnose in the initial stages. It’s not very symptomatic till it progresses to later stage. Usually, there is no pain till tooth decay has progressed to an advanced stage. Hence, the need to go for regular dental check-ups.

-The first sign of tooth decay is usually a white chalky spot on the tooth surface which is due to dissolution of the tooth enamel.

-This whitish spot can later turn brownish due to further demineralization of the tooth.

-The affected area can become soft and yielding.

-When demineralization progresses to the pulp of the tooth, pain will be experienced.

-Pain may increase on consumption of hot/cold/sweet foods.

Dental Decay Prevention

Dental Cavities Treatment

There are various modalities of treatment for dental decay depending on extent of decay and individual preference.

-Small pit and fissure decay can be filled up by a cement such as GIC.

-In slightly more involved cases, the tooth has to undergo restoration (Filling) by silver amalgam or composite.

-In extensive cases, a cap or crown is need which will replace the lost tooth structure.

-When tooth decay involves the pulp, Root canal treatment (RCT) is the treatment of choice.

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