Tooth decay: causes and signs

carie dentaire

The health of your teeth is key to your overall health. Preventing cavities is one of the most important ways to keep your teeth in good condition and prevent further complications. Untreated cavities can destroy your teeth and eventually create more serious problems. That's why it's helpful to know the signs of a cavity and to see your dentist as soon as possible if you think you have one. 

Here is a guide that will explain in detail the 4 signs that indicate the presence of tooth decay.

What is tooth decay ?

Tooth decay is the attack of the tooth by acids produced by the bacteria of the dental plaque which accumulate on the teeth. At the beginning of the formation of dental caries, the acid causes the decalcification as well as the decomposition of the different structures of the tooth by demineralizing it, starting with the dental enamel. The dentist can immediately detect this decalcification by observing the discoloration and brittleness of the tooth enamel. To do this, he will conduct a clinical examination with an instrument called an explorer. This is possible if the decay is located on a visible part of the crown of the tooth. It is also possible to take x-rays to detect cavities between the teeth if the decay is not yet significant.

Causes of tooth decay

Dental plaque

One of the main causes of tooth decay is the bacterial flora. Indeed, the bacteria in dental plaque produce acids from the sweet foods we ingest, which then degrade the teeth. In addition, tartar is the cause of gingivitis, which will promote the appearance of cavities.

Oral problems


Many people have an environment favorable to the formation of dental caries. For example, a defect in the enamel that is poorly mineralized can be a source of problems. Badly placed teeth can also cause problems because you will have difficulty brushing them, which will create plaque.

Diet


A diet with too much sugar can lead to tooth decay. Indeed, these foods are transformed by the germs of the mouth into acids which will attack the teeth. Nibbling is also harmful because it prevents the saliva from renewing itself and from carrying out the natural cleaning of the teeth.

Lack of fluoride and vitamin D


Fluoride and vitamin D are essential to oral health. Indeed, they play a major role in the mineralization and the solidity of the bones and thus of the teeth. A lack of these elements can severely weaken them. Fluoride supplementation of water containing < 1 ppm will reduce the incidence of dental caries.

Signs of tooth decay

1) Tooth sensitivity related to food

Sensitivity to hot and cold foods


Tooth sensitivity after eating hot or cold foods is a sign that you have a cavity. This is because when your tooth enamel starts to wear away, it can affect the dentin, which is the hard tissue layer underneath the tooth enamel. Dentin contains many small microscopic hollow tubes. When there is not enough enamel to protect the dentin, hot, cold, sticky or acidic foods can stimulate the cells and nerves inside your tooth. This is what creates the sensitivity you feel in your teeth.

Persistent sensitivity to sweets


While hot and cold are the most common sensitivities when you have a tooth decay, sensitivity to candy and sugary drinks can also indicate tooth decay. Similar to temperature sensitivity, persistent discomfort from candy is often the result of enamel damage and, more specifically, the onset of a cavity. The explanation is very simple: the bacteria in your mouth digest the food you eat and feed on the sugar. They produce acids that can dissolve tooth enamel and cause cavities.

You must take into account this dental sensitivity by brushing your teeth with an adapted toothbrush. Generally, it is recommended to use the Y-Brush toothbrush. It is a toothbrush that has several modes of sonic vibrations and brushing time. The vibration mode you choose will depend on your dental sensitivity.

2) Tooth pain

Persistent pain in one or more of your teeth may indicate a cavity. In fact, pain is one of the most common symptoms of a cavity. Sometimes this pain can come on suddenly or as a result of something you eat. This includes pain and discomfort in or around your mouth. You may also feel pain and pressure when you bite down on food. This pain is often short-lived but can be quite severe. It increases as the decay progresses towards the dental pulp.

3) Your tooth no longer looks the same


A stain on your tooth


Tooth stains can come in almost any color. This includes brown, yellow, black or even colors like orange, purple or red. The color of the stain depends on what created it in the first place. For example, brown spots occur due to smoking or chewing tobacco. Red or purple spots are caused by wine or certain foods. There are certain types of bacteria on the surface of the teeth that make orange stains visible. In the case of white stains, an excess of fluoride is the cause.

A hole in your tooth


Some holes, especially those between your teeth or in crevices, cannot be seen or felt. But you may still feel pain or sensitivity in the area of the cavity. If you notice a hole or pit in your tooth, make an appointment with your dentist. This is a clear sign that you have tooth decay. Usually, it appears after you discover a white spot on your tooth that has gotten worse. You will feel it when you run your tongue over the surface of your teeth. It will be especially painful.

We hope this guide has helped you understand all the signs that indicate the presence of a cavity. However, the main way to get fixed is to see a dentist. Indeed, it is the thing to do if you have concerns about a possible cavity. In addition, going to see a dentist regularly (every 6 months) and having regular x-rays is one of the best ways to prevent cavities or prevent existing cavities from developing.  

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