What is tooth decay, and why is it a problem?
Tooth decays refer to damages on the enamel or the teeth surfaces due to bacterial decay. Over time, the bacteria in your mouth produce toxins and acids that dissolve the enamel, leading to holes in the teeth known as cavities or dental caries. Cavities generally start small but gradually increase in size, becoming bigger and deeper. Cavities don’t cause any pain initially, so most people don’t realize they’re suffering from tooth decay. At that stage, the only way to identify a dental cavity is if it’s in a visible location. As the cavity grows bigger, it enters the inner parts of your teeth, including the pulp chamber, at which point you need a root canal. Tooth decay is a serious problem because it only worsens with time, so you must seek treatment immediately.
What causes dental decay?
Dental decay occurs due to various factors, including bacteria, plaque accumulation, food particles, acids, and saliva. The food particles in your mouth, especially sugars, eventually turn into a white and sticky substance known as plaque. You can generally remove the plaque with regular brushing and flossing. But brushing doesn’t always remove all the plaque from your mouth, especially not from the deeper regions or between the gum line. Over time, the plaque hardens into a substance known as tartar, which can’t be removed with basic oral hygiene, necessitating dental cleanings. All of us have bacteria in our mouths, but sugary foods and other factors increase the bacterial presence. The bacteria and plaque interact to produce acids that dissolve the enamel, i.e., the protective outer layer of the teeth. The erosion of the enamel leads to cavities and dental caries.
The following are the primary risk factors for dental decay:
- The excessive consumption of sugary or acidic foods or drinks increases the bacterial presence and tooth decay.
- Poor oral hygiene routine, including brushing and flossing, because of increased plaque accumulation on the teeth.
- Insufficient fluoride.
- Avoiding regular dental cleanings, necessary to remove the accumulated plaque and tartar from the teeth and gum line.
- Acid reflux disease, which leads to the erosion of enamel due to stomach acids.
What are the treatments for tooth decay?
The treatment for tooth decay depends on how far the cavity has spread. The uptown dentists will take dental x-rays to examine the precise extent of the cavities and curate the ideal treatment plan. Depending on the extent of the decay, you may need fillings, crowns, or root canal treatment. The following is a brief overview of all the potential treatment options.
Fillings refer to certain substances that fill the cavity on the teeth’ surface, such as silver, gold, or composite resin. The dentist will remove the decayed parts of the enamel and fill the cavity with the chosen materials. Composite resin is ideal for those seeking natural-looking results because it blends perfectly with the surrounding enamel. Gold and silver are more suitable for the posterior teeth because they’re highly visible. Tooth fillings only work if the cavity is small and on the enamel.
Crowns are caps attached over your existing teeth to cover their flaws or provide additional protections. Crowns are tooth-shaped coverings — they’re custom-fit over your teeth after removing all the decayed parts. Porcelain and composite resin are the ideal materials for dental crowns because they look like natural teeth, whereas other materials (such as silver amalgam) look fake. You can also get porcelain-fused-to-metal if you want strength, durability, and natural aesthetics. Crowns are useful when the cavity is too large for fillings but not deep enough to warrant a root canal.
The root canal is the innermost part of your teeth’ structure, sometimes called the pulp chamber. It contains the pulp tissues, nerves, and blood vessels. If you allow the cavity to continue spreading, it will eventually reach the pulp chamber, spreading the bacterial infection into the pulp tissues. At that stage, a root canal is the last resort to saving the tooth. The dentist drills an access hole into the tooth, empties the components of the pulp chamber, disinfects it, and fills it with a dental sealant. Once the infection is addressed, and the tooth is hollowed out, you’re advised to get a dental crown to protect the weakened tooth.
Do regular dental cleanings improve dental health?
Regular dental cleanings are the ideal means of improving your dental health and preventing dental decay. During dental cleanings, the dentist uses a tool called a scaler to remove all the accumulated plaque and tartar from your teeth and gum line. The scaling treatment is followed by a fluoride treatment to remove all the bacterial buildup. As such, the dental cleaning undoes months of accumulated bacteria and plaque, refreshing your mouth. Furthermore, the dental cleaning also identifies early signs of cavities, allowing you to seal them before they worsen. You should go for regular dental cleanings at least once every six months.
Schedule an appointment with an uptown dentist in Houston today.
URBN Dental has some of the best uptown dentists in Houston, such as Dr. Kyunglim Chae and Dr. Benjamin Golik. We believe preventative dentistry is crucial to maintain long-term optimal oral health, so we provide thorough dental cleanings and dental checkups. Our dental clinic is also highly accessible, located in both Midtown and Uptown Houston. You may schedule an appointment with our Houston Uptown dentists today.