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Everything you need to know about tooth decay

Tooth decay is one of the most common dental problems in the word, affecting millions of people every year. Dental cavities can cause serious pain and complications if not treated quickly and effectively.

Where does tooth decay come from? Dental cavities, or caries, are caused by oral bacteria that feed on the sugars and carbohydrates in our diet. These bacteria produce acids that damage the enamel of our teeth.

In this article, Montreal dentists examine the causes, symptoms and treatments of tooth decay, as well as preventive measures you can take to maintain excellent oral health.

What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in dental plaque damage the enamel and dentin of a tooth and cause the tooth pulp to become inflamed, often causing severe pain.

Bacteria feed on the sugars and carbohydrates in the food you eat. These bacteria produce acids that attack the surface of your teeth and create cavities, eventually leading to tooth decay. If not treated in time, tooth decay can cause pain, tooth sensitivity, infection and even the loss of your tooth. It is important to detect and treat tooth decay when you first notice signs of a problem.

What causes tooth decay?

Tooth decay is caused by a combination of factors that can vary from person to person. The most common causes of tooth decay are:

1. Plaque and oral bacteria

Plaque is the sticky bacterial buildup on our teeth. Left unchecked, this bacteria produces acids that can cause enamel to become demineralized, leaving your tooth more vulnerable to decay.

2. Diet and sugar consumption

A diet that is high in sugar and carbohydrates can promote the growth of plaque bacteria and increase the risk of tooth decay.

While sugar cannot be held solely responsible for tooth decay, it is the main culprit. Pay attention to your sugar intake, especially refined sugars like white sugar, brown sugar, glucose, etc. These directly feed the bacteria responsible for cavities, allowing them to create acids that attack the tooth.

You should limit your intake of sodas, candies and cookies of all kinds, and brush your teeth or rinse your mouth every time you have a treat.

3. Risk factors such as age, family history and systemic diseases

Some people are more likely than others to develop cavities. Factors such as age, family history, general health and lifestyle all come into play. Understanding these risk factors can help you take appropriate preventive measures.

Signs and symptoms of tooth decay

Symptoms of tooth decay can vary depending on the location and severity of the lesion. These are the most common signs of tooth decay:

  1. Tooth sensitivity: When tooth decay affects the enamel and dentin, it can cause tooth pain or sensitivity to cold, hot or sweet foods.
  2. Tooth pain: If tooth decay is not treated in time, it can progress to the tooth pulp, causing a toothache that can spread to other teeth or the jaw.
  3. Stains or cavities on the teeth: Cavities can cause stains or crevices that are usually visible to the naked eye. A dentist can identify them during a dental exam.
  4. Bad breath: Bacteria linked with tooth decay can cause persistent bad breath, even after brushing.
  5. Complications, such as dental abscesses: If tooth decay is not treated, it can cause more serious complications, such as dental pulp infections or dental cysts.

How to prevent tooth decay?

It is essential to consult a dentist at the first sign of tooth decay to prevent it from getting worse and causing complications.

By following certain preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of tooth decay and maintain good oral health. It is also important to see a dentist regularly for professional dental exams and cleanings and to detect and treat tooth decay at its early stages.

Good oral hygiene habits

Follow a good dental hygiene routine: brush twice a day and floss at least once a day. Make sure you brush for at least two minutes and use a soft-bristled toothbrush. You can also choose a toothpaste that contains fluoride and floss to avoid developing interdental cavities (cavities between your teeth).

Adopt healthy eating habits and limit sugar consumption

Avoiding refined sugars can be a daunting task. However, a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean protein and dairy products can help prevent tooth decay. You can enjoy the benefits of a nutrient-rich diet while you minimize your chances of creating plaque and cavities.

Preventive treatments

Prevention is better than cure, as the saying goes. Luckily, there are effective treatments for preventing tooth decay. For example, your dentist could install a fissure sealant, a thin layer of resin that is applied to molars and premolars to prevent bacteria from accumulating in crevices.

Is tooth decay contagious?

Tooth decay is not a contagious disease that can spread from one person to another. However, the bacteria that cause tooth decay can be transmitted from one person to another through close contact by the mouth, such as sharing toothbrushes, kitchen utensils or drinking glasses.

Children are particularly vulnerable to infection by these bacteria because they often share objects with their peers.

How to treat a dental cavity

Dental cavity treatment can vary depending on the severity of the cavity and what part of the tooth is affected.

If decay is detected early, it can be treated with a filling. Your dentist will remove the damaged portion of the tooth and fill the cavity with a durable material, such as dental amalgam or resin-based composite. This treatment is usually quick and easy, and it restores both the function and appearance of the tooth.

However, if the tooth decay is more advanced and has reached the inner layers of the tooth, a more invasive treatment may be necessary. In this case, your dentist may install a crown to protect any remaining tooth structure and prevent further damage. In more severe cases, dental restoration or tooth extraction may be the only options to prevent the spread of infection to neighboring teeth.

Clinique Dentaire 1935 can treat your dental cavities

Tooth decay is a common oral disease that can lead to serious consequences if it is not treated in time. Fortunately, practicing proper oral hygiene and committing to healthy eating habits can prevent tooth decay and the development of cavities and caries.

Contact us if you are experiencing symptoms of cavities or would like to learn more about preventing tooth decay. Our team of qualified professionals will be happy to answer all your questions and help you maintain good oral health.

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