Causes of tooth decay

Tooth decay (cavity or dental caries) is one of the most widespread diseases in the world. Almost every adult have at least one dental filling in their teeth, but the most vulnerable population groups are kids, teenagers and elderly people.

What Caused Dental Caries?

This trouble is so popular, because there are only 4 things needed for it to develop:

Causes of tooth decay - photo 1
Photo 1. The causes of tooth decay.

Prevention

You may think: “If it really was that simple, we would all have tooth decay constantly!” To a certain extend you are right. There are factors that prevent caries from building up:

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Photo 2. Fluoride toothpaste.

Bacteria

Not all the bacteria people have in their mouth is pathogenic (i.e. harmful), some types are very important as they help to keep the healthy balance in the oral cavity or support our immunity. However, there are certain types of bacteria that can bring serious harm to your teeth health, especially in case of poor mouth hygiene and increased carbohydrate consume. Mostly the bacteria causing tooth decay belong to the mutans streptococci or lactobacilli type. These bacteria constantly produce different kinds of acids in the process of carbohydrate fermenting (mostly it’s about sugars).

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Photo 3. Harmful bacteria destroy teeth.

Demineralization

Minerals in tooth enamel are sensitive to increased acidity (lowered pH level in the mouth), because acids lead to constant demineralization. Actually, when we stick to the basic rules of mouth care, like regular brushing and flossing, washing and eating right food, it builds a balance between demineralization and remineralization. By the way, our tooth enamel has a great ability of self-repair! So all you should do to remain healthy — is to take care of it.

How does this happen?

Tooth decay appears when bacterial plaque, this unpleasant sticky film, builds up on your teeth and starts destroying the enamel.  The plague makes the enamel soft and vulnerable, as the tooth enamel is demineralized too much to resist. This stage is difficult to be noticed with a naked eye, but dentists conduct special tests that help identifying tooth decay on early stage and block the process. Sometimes white spots may appear on the demineralized parts of the tooth, but it can be a sign of some other oral cavity disorder, not just tooth decay, so it’s better to consult a specialist.

Over time a small cavity appears on the tooth surface. Sometimes it can be noticed only with a special dentist tool, as it may be located between teeth on in some other place that is difficult to notice. After the cavity develops in the enamel and the dentin (that is a much softer and vulnerable tissue under the enamel), the process significantly speeds up and people usually start complaining about toothache, as the nerve in the tooth pulp is affected.  If not treated at this stage the process may turn into a dental abscess with severe pain, inflammation and pus.

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Photo 4. Tooth abscess.

Localization

The most popular teeth for dental caries development are those large teeth at the back part of the mouth. They are known as molars and premolars and used mostly for chewing food. Because of their quirks and location, it is quite hard to brush them properly, so food particles are likely to stick between them. As far as front teeth are concerned, cavities are more likely to appear between them, rather than on their visible surface.

Risk factors

There is a list of factors that increase the risk of tooth decay. For instance, if people consume lots of carbohydrates, regular eat sweet snacks in between major meals and don’t clean their teeth properly at least twice a day, flossing the space between them at least once a day and using special mouth-washing liquids — the plaque will sufficiently build up (what, in turn, will lead to increased acidity and demineralization.

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Photo 5. Family oral hygiene.

Insufficient mouth care and bad nutrition are the main causes of tooth decay, but there are lots of other factors, though:

Nevertheless, as we mentioned above, diet high in carbohydrates, sugars and starch and improper mouth hygiene are the greatest causes of tooth decay.

Make sure you visit your dentist at least twice a year and take care of your teeth, because timely treatment of tooth decay prevents pain, tooth loss and inflammation.

Video: What Causes Tooth Decay?

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