What is plaque? How does it develop? What is tooth decay?
Imagine there are millions of bacteria living in your mouth. They spread out, cover all of your teeth and together form of a sticky, colourless film, which we call plaque. These bacteria live on the food or drink you consume.
They are especially keen on sugar and acidic foods, which they convert into tooth-unfriendly acid. This dangerous acid attacks the outer surface of your teeth (=enamel) and can cause holes, which can go as deep as the root of the tooth (see blog entry structure of teeth), if not prevented by daily brushing and flossing. We call the damage of those evil tooth monsters (=bacteria) tooth decay, caries or cavities.
Which areas of my mouth are most prone to tooth decay?
Any area in your mouth is at risk if you don’t maintain a healthy diet and proper dental hygiene. Obviously the parts between the teeth and the rills/grooves on the biting surfaces are more likely to decay because you can’t easily reach it with your toothbrush.
What does caries feel like?
At first a cavity might not cause any pain, since the outer coat of your teeth, the so-called enamel, does not contain any sensitive blood vessels or nerves. However there are clear symptoms of tooth decay:
– grey, brown or back spots on your teeth
– tooth sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet food and drinks
Also a bad breath and weird taste in your mouth can be hinting towards decayed teeth.
How to treat tooth decay?
The treatment of caries depends on its severity. At an early stage the dentist may ask you to eat healthier and might apply a fluoride gel that helps strengthening the protective layer of your teeth (=enamel). If the caries has spread further, the dentist will need to remove the decay and fill in the hole. A root canal treatment is necessary as soon as the caries has reached the very centre of the tooth. If the tooth cannot be restored it may even be removed and eventually replaced (e.g. through partial denture, bridge or implant)
How can I prevent tooth decay?
There is a very simple formula:
Brush 2x day + Floss + Eat nutritious foods + regular dental visits = happy teeth