|Teeth can set one’s teeth on edge
The tea is too hot! The ice cream is too cold! Simple chewing is painful! Breath is not minty and the mouth tastes like there is a foot in there! If this describes one’s recent experiences, it is most likely that the person is suffering from one in an array of dental caries. Dental caries start off as simple infections and cause enough damage, which leads to a dentist’s drilling. Of course, there are many things one can do to avoid this. Here’s how...
Tooth decay or a tooth cavity, known as dental caries, is an infection, mostly caused by harmful bacteria that cause damage to the hard covering of a tooth. Though common, coming in second to common cold, this disorder can cause tooth loss in young people. In India, during the 1940s, 55.5% of the population suffered because of this common culprit, in the 60’s it was 68%, in more recent times the incidence rate has been somewhere between 44 to 73%.*
Food - fodder for bacteria
This high teeth-gritting occurrence of caries is caused by bacteria present in the mouth. These microscopic miscreants change food such as sugar and starch into acids. Combine this acid with food debris, the ever prevalent bacteria, and saliva – one has the perfect combination for the formation of plaque, a sticky substance, on teeth. Plaque usually forms on the back molars though it can form above the gum line of all teeth.
Plaque - the plague
The plaque plague takes just 20 minutes to form after eating and, if not cleaned, the tooth begins to decay.
Plaque’s acids erode the tooth’s enamel and create holes called cavities. These tiny holes are usually painless, but as they grow larger they can affect the nerves or trigger off a tooth fracture. If a cavity goes unlooked at for a long period, a tooth abscess can form which might further lead to the destruction of the insides of the tooth or the tooth’s pulp.
The teeth’s erosion is increased by sticky foods that contain sugar and starch, and these are more harmful than non-sticky foods. As all this decay and destruction starts with food consumption, regular grubbing of snacks often leads to acid build-up that causes plaque. No, that does not mean one has to stop eating! Post food dental care is vital to keep human pearls sparkling.
Nothing ‘holy’ about cavities
One can tell when the teeth’s eroded and needs some extra help, if:
Though there is no sure way of telling what the symptoms of dental caries are, most cavities can be detected early during a routine dental check-up. While the check-up could indicate its presence, dental x-rays help show the exact extent of the damage.
Light at the end of the cavity
The main focus of caries management has shifted from invasive surgical methods to prevention of caries using new and advanced dental materials. When the cavity is diagnosed early, procedures such as re-mineralisation and simpler treatments with materials used to fill cavities can put a stop to the growth of these tiny holes. This shift in management is because of the increased effort to prevent caries and the advances in materials used to treat caries.
Dental caries can be treated easily – either medically or surgically.
Dental experts usually recommend medication to be taken five days approximately when they notice swelling near the effected tooth and tooth abscess.
Surgical treatments include:
- One has visible holes in the teeth
- One experiences tooth pain especially after sweet, hot, or cold foods and drinks
- One can open the mouth only partially
- Visible swelling close to the effected tooth
The light at the end of the cavity usually involves drilling. A dentist drills the effected tooth to remove the decayed material and replaces it with porcelain, gold, composite resin, or silver alloy in the treatment requiring only fillings. Fillings using composite resin and porcelain, which closely match the tooth, are usually used for front teeth. Stronger materials, such as gold, silver alloy, and high strength composite resin, are used for the teeth at the back.
The tooth is ‘crowned’ when there is extensive tooth decay and there is minimum natural teeth structure remaining, thus increasing the risk of tooth loss or breaking. This treatment involves the removal or repair of the decayed or weakened area. Crowns are often made of porcelain, porcelain attached to metal or gold.
A root canal is recommended when the decay of the tooth has extended to the tooth’s nerve or the nerve has been damaged because of injury. In this treatment, the tooth’s pulp and the decayed part are removed and replaced with a sealing material. The procedure usually ends with the placement of a crown.
Avoid the drill
- Root canals
So in conclusion...
Caring for one’s teeth can keep the carries away,
So brush twice and floss once to keep the drill far, far away.
- One of the main ways to stay away from the dentist’s drill is undergoing regular professional cleaning every six months. Brushing at least twice a day and flossing daily can keep the dentist away too!
- If one can’t keep away from the sweets, it is best to have them as part of the meal rather than a snack. If possible, the mouth should be rinsed after these sticky foods. Minimise snacking and drinking liquids high in sugar.
- Dental sealants too can prevent some cavities. A sealant is nothing but a thin coating much like plastic that is applied to the molars’ chewing surfaces. This coating prevents plaque. Though used mainly on children’s teeth, older people may also benefit from this extra tooth coating.
- Fluoride is also used to keep away dental caries. It has been noted that people who consume fluoride in their drinking water or use fluoride supplements have fewer dental caries.