June 13, 2024

The Science of Tooth Decay: Understanding and Managing It

A tooth is a living part of your body that is prone to decay if not taken care of! It is one of the most prevalent oral problems that affects millions globally regardless of age or gender. This brings about various detrimental effects on both oral health and aesthetics. Fortunately, modern dentistry provides an array of diagnostic techniques and treatment modalities to address tooth decay effectively.

Read this informative blog by the Rancho Cucamonga dentist and their expert team to help understand tooth decay better.

A comprehensive guide to understanding everything about tooth decay

Tooth decay, or dental caries, is the destruction of the tooth structure due to the abnormal and uncontrolled breakdown of the enamel (the outermost hard surface of the tooth) layer. This may eventually result in cavities or holes.

Causes: 

Bacteria and plaque are the prime factors that cause tooth decay. Improper oral hygiene practices contribute to the increased accumulation of disease-causing bacteria, leading to the development of dental plaque (a soft, sticky film that coats the tooth surface). The plaque produces acids, toxins, and other by-products that erode the enamel, forming small holes, pits, or cavities. Without treatment, tooth decay can progress, causing discomfort, inflammation, infection of the pulp, and eventual tooth loss.

Symptoms: 

Initial, or mild tooth decay does not exhibit any symptoms except surface discoloration. However, moderate to severe forms  may include any one or more of the following symptoms:

  1. Constant tooth pain and discomfort
  2. Pain radiating to the jaw and ears
  3. Increased tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, and sugary foods
  4. White or dark spots on the teeth 
  5. Bad breath
  6. Deep cavity
  7. Difficulty chewing 
  8. Halitosis (bad breath) 
  9. Increase in gingival swelling, redness, and bleeding.

Treatment: 

Based on the symptoms and the severity of tooth decay, your dentist may recommend any one of the following treatment options:

  • Fluoride treatment: This treatment helps treat mild tooth decay, such as pits and fissures. Fluoride helps remineralize the enamel, which can halt tooth decay and prevent further damage. 
  • Dental fillings: The dentist will remove the decayed tissues and restore the tooth by using an appropriate filling material or cement.
  • Root canal therapy: The procedure that involves the removal of the infected pulp, replacing it with a biocompatible material, and restoring the tooth with a dental crown.
  • Tooth extraction: Tooth decay beyond repair is mostly extracted and replaced with suitable dentures, bridges, or dental implants.  

If you notice any tooth discoloration or obvious tooth pain with cavities, consult your dentist for further evaluation and management. Early diagnosis can save your tooth from permanent damage.