Cavities and tooth decay: it’s the dental version of the question which came first, the chicken or the egg? The easiest way to answer this question is to explain that tooth decay happens over time and causes cavities. Before we can look at triggers of tooth decay, we have to first understand how tooth decay develops, so let’s explore:
Plaque Forms on Your Teeth
If your diet consists of a lot of sugars and starches, then you’ll want to pay close attention. This, coupled with not cleaning your teeth as regularly as you should or as deeply as you should, attracts bacteria. When bacteria start to feed off the sugars and starches that haven’t been cleaned off your teeth, plaque forms. The longer that plaque stays on your teeth, the more hardened it becomes, which makes it more difficult to be removed.
Plaque Attacks Your Tooth Enamel
In a previous post, we identified a range of foods that can protect your tooth enamel; however, there are also many foods and beverages to take note of that can damage your teeth. Plaque contains acids that remove the minerals in tooth enamel, which leads to holes or openings in the enamel and is the first stage in developing a cavity. Underneath our tooth enamel, there is a softer layer called dentin, which is less resistant to acid. There are tiny tubes in dentin that can trigger tooth sensitivity.
Once these stages have been reached, tooth decay continues to develop as bacteria and acids move toward the inner tooth material known as the pulp. The pulp has nerves and blood vessels that can become irritated by bacteria. This often leads to swelling that cannot be contained within the tooth, so the pain expands to the nerve, tooth root and bone.
Although this can sound unpleasant and scary, there are ways that we can help you to improve your oral hygiene and remove your tooth decay. Let’s take a look at some of the common triggers that signify you may be experiencing tooth decay:
Signs & Symptoms of Tooth Decay
- Pain in Your Back Teeth: Your tooth location can give you a lot of information. Our back teeth, i.e. molars and premolars, contain a lot of grooves and crevices. These are perfect areas for food particles to take up residence and for bacteria to feed.
- Consuming Certain Foods & Drinks: As noted above, if your diet heavily includes starches and sugars, then your teeth may regularly fall victim to plaque and, in turn, tooth decay. Try to reduce the intake of sugary items like hard candy, cookies, dried fruit and soda; it’s difficult for saliva to wash items like these away because of their ability to cling to your teeth for longer periods of time.
- Not Brushing or Flossing Regularly: We know that we may sound like a broken record here, but keeping up with your oral hygiene routine is imperative not only to your dental health, but to your health in general. Remember, always do your best to brush your teeth at least twice per day and try not to ignore flossing! When you don’t clean your teeth soon after eating or drinking, then plaque will begin to form. As we learned earlier, this first stage is what leads to tooth decay.
- Lack of Saliva: When you’re experiencing dry mouth, that means that your mouth is not producing enough saliva. Saliva helps to prevent tooth decay by washing food particles and plaque away from your teeth. A lack of saliva can also lead to mouth discomfort and bad breath; do note that certain medications reduce saliva production and can, therefore, lead to tooth decay and cavities.
There are additional triggers that can lead to tooth decay and these include, but are not limited to: eating disorders, older dental devices and worn fillings, heartburn, a lack of fluoride, and age. It’s important to keep up with your bi-annual dental exams and checkups so that we can help you to ensure that your mouth is living its best life!
If you suspect that you may be experiencing tooth decay, we encourage you to contact us so that we can help you to get your oral health back on track.