Tooth decay is a bacterial infection that causes the tooth structure to break down. The disease starts on the hard surface of the tooth and, without treatment, spreads further into the deeper layers. Like any bacterial infection, tooth decay is contagious and must be treated by a dentist.
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world. Healthy teeth are extremely important for a carefree and painless life.
How does tooth decay develop?
Several factors play a role in the development of tooth decay. The disease is caused by bacteria that, combined with a diet that is too sweet or too acidic or poor tooth condition, can lead to tooth decay. The disease begins with demineralization of the tooth surface, which makes the tooth vulnerable to bacteria. Hard-to-reach areas are particularly at risk, such as the spaces between teeth or fine cracks in the tooth surface.
What are the symptoms of tooth decay?
You can recognize tooth decay at home by the fact that sweet foods cause you to suffer repeatedly in the same place or that the affected tooth has a brown spot. White spots on the tooth can in turn indicate demineralization. Another sign of tooth decay may be increased sensitivity to cold. If you experience any or all of these signs, you should have them checked by your dentist as soon as possible. If tooth decay is not treated in time, the disease can progress and cause irreversible damage to the tooth.
Stages of caries disease:
1. Initial caries (white spots): In the initial stage, the surface of the tooth is decalcified. This is visible as a white spot, but can still be reversed with fluoridation. There is no carious lesion yet.
2. Enamel caries (surface caries): If the decalcification of the surfaces is not treated, the caries may spread further. A brownish discoloration occurs on the tooth. The caries must now be treated as soon as possible, as it spreads more rapidly into the deeper layers of the tooth.
3. Deep dentin caries (Caries profunda): At this stage, the disease is already well advanced. The tooth decay is getting closer to the nerve of the tooth and must be treated as soon as possible.
How to best prevent dental caries?
Good oral hygiene is essential:
Careful and regular oral hygiene is above all crucial for the prevention of tooth decay. In addition to cleaning with a toothbrush, this also includes the use of dental floss, interdental brushes, with which even hard-to-reach areas such as the small spaces between the teeth can be cleaned thoroughly.
The goal of oral hygiene is to quickly and completely remove bacterial plaque from the tooth surface.
Fluoride can also be useful as a preventive measure against tooth decay. It promotes mineralization and improves the strength of tooth enamel. Local fluoridation is also possible at home with a toothpaste, gel or mouthwash containing fluoride.
You must be careful with your diet:
A poor diet can promote various oral diseases. A healthy, balanced diet, in turn, has a positive effect on the health of your teeth and contributes significantly to reducing the risk of tooth decay. A good diet includes proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals in a balanced ratio. The individual components have a direct and indirect effect on dental health:
Solid, vigorously chewed foods stimulate the flow of saliva. This helps to clean some of the plaque that settles on the teeth.
On the other hand, very cold or hot foods are harmful, as they can cause fine cracks in the enamel. Acidic foods also attack the teeth. Erosion can cause damage to the tooth.
Foods containing sugar indirectly attack the teeth because they promote tooth decay. The bacteria that cause tooth decay feed on the sugar in the food. As a result, acids are formed and tooth surfaces are demineralized.
Saliva stimulation can prevent tooth decay:
Our salivary glands produce about 0.5 to 1.5 liters of saliva each day. This is important for dental health, as it reduces the concentration of acids and sugars in the oral cavity. Saliva also has a mild antibacterial rinsing effect. Although it cannot remove plaque, it can counteract demineralization.
Treatment of one or more dental cavities at the dentist:
Nowadays, tooth decay can often be detected at an early stage, even before irreversible damage occurs. With professional tooth cleaning and regular fluoridation, dentists can easily treat the first white spots effectively.
If tooth decay is already advanced, the dentist will remove the infected areas and fill them with a material close to the tooth to fill the hole. This is then hardened with a special lamp and, if necessary, fitted with a crown or partial crown if the tooth has already been severely damaged. If the tooth decay has already affected the pulp, a root canal treatment is necessary.