Tooth decay preventable

2018-06-27 06:03
If the decay is caught early, a simple filling may restore the tooth without any other intervention.Photo: Supplied

If the decay is caught early, a simple filling may restore the tooth without any other intervention.Photo: Supplied

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Some people think only children get tooth decay, but all of us are at risk our whole lives.

What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is a disease that damages and breaks down teeth. A tooth has a hard outer layer (enamel), a middle layer (dentin) and a centre (pulp). The more layers affected by decay, the worse the damage.

What causes decay?

Your teeth are covered by a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. After a meal or snack, the bacteria turn the sugars in foods and drinks into acid. The acid attacks the tooth enamel. The acid eats away at the tooth and can cause decay. A hole called a cavity can form if left untreated.

Are you at risk?

People of all ages can get tooth decay. Your risk may increase if you:

  • Often snack and sip on sugary foods and drinks.
  • Have a dry mouth from medicines or other medical conditions.
  • Have weak enamel.
  • Do not brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste; flossing is also recommended at least once per day.

Can tooth decay be prevented?

Yes. Here is how:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss at least once daily.
  • Avoid frequent sipping and snacking on sugary drinks and foods.
  • Drink water that has an acceptable level of fluoride.
  • Visit your dentist regularly.
  • Ask your dentist if dental sealants are suitable for you or your children.

Do you have decay?

Symptoms of tooth decay can include black, brown or white spots on the teeth, bad breath and loose fillings. Tell your dentist if you have noticed that your teeth are sensitive to heat or cold, or if you have any tooth pain. Your dentist will examine your teeth and take X-rays.

How is decay treated?

Treatment depends on how early the decay is caught. Before cavities form, fluoride treatments may solve the problem. If you have a cavity, you will need a filling. A large cavity may need a crown to replace the decayed part of the tooth. If the centre (pulp) of your tooth is involved, root canal treatment may be your last chance to save the tooth.

Finally, a badly damaged tooth might have to be pulled and replaced.

American Dental Association


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