Tooth decay (or dental caries/cavities) is a serious oral health trouble that happens in most people (mostly children and people of elderly age). According to recent statistics all over the world tooth decay occurs more than in 2/3 of all children in school age.
Why does tooth decay start and why is this dental problem so widespread? You may have heard of bacterial plaque before, right? Because most of the toothpaste brands we see in supermarkets promise protection from plaque. Toothpastes do their job, but it’s impossible to stop the process of its building up, this process is natural. Bacterial plaque is a sticky substance with light color or almost transparent that is developing in our mouth (on our teeth, gums, tongue) 24 hours 7 days a week. Plaque mostly consists of different types of bacteria and builds up especially quickly when people eat sweets, sugar and starch containing foods and carbohydrates in general. Throughout their lives bacteria produce a number of acids that influence the tooth enamel making it vulnerable and eventually destroying it. It happens because acids accumulate and demineralize the tooth enamel, what slowly turns into tooth decay process.
But is this process inevitable? Why some of our teeth stay intact and why some people don’t suffer from cavities at all?
Photo 1. Bacterial plaque localization.
Of course, there are several protecting factors that are partially provided by nature itself and partially exist thanks to modern oral health care research. First of all, talking about these protecting factors it’s impossible not to mention minerals from our saliva (such as phosphate and calcium). They help to keep tooth enamel remineralized even after demineralization caused by pathogenic bacteria. In addition, fluoride we consume with some foods and liquids, get from the toothpaste (also note that usually this essential mineral is added to the tap water) — also renders great assistance in fighting against tooth enamel demineralization.
Photo 2. Use of fluoride gel.
So, let’s make the bottom line. What are the factors that help tooth decay develop?
Eating lots of carbohydrates that leads to presence of fermentable sugars in our mouth will lead to increased acidity (i.e. disturbed pH level) and that will expose tooth enamel to damages and demineralization. If we eat snacks regularly between meals — saliva doesn’t have enough time to clean the teeth surface from acids, so a piece of advice for those who enjoy snacking — eat chewing gums or swish your mouth with special liquids after every “snack-time”.
Not seeing your dentist regularly, insufficient fluoride consume - are another risk factor for tooth decay development. Of course, there can be some other factors — like smoking or suffering from decreased salivation as a result of some diseases. In general, analyze your nutritional habits: if there are lots of foods high in carbs, sugars and starch and you have found at least one point from those mentioned above that you agree with — you are at risk.
Photo 3. Frequent causes of caries.
Anyway, there are some other points of view to tooth decay development, and this one belongs to Dr. Weston Price and other dental pioneers. They are sure that it must be a mistake in the classical theory about tooth decay. Dr. Weston Price summed up these factors and found several problems with these theory:
So what is actually the problem?
There are 3 factors leading to tooth decay, according to Dr. Weston Price:
Decreased intake of foods reach in vitamins and minerals and increased level of phytates (from complex carbohydrates like grains, kernels and so on) can disturb the equilibration between calcium and phosphorous, so that your body starts taking essential minerals from bone tissues and that, in turn, leads to cavities.
Actually the traditional belief that increased sugar intakes leads to cavities is true, but it’s not the primary reason, but the result of disturbed balance in the body.
It’s up to you to decide, what point of view to consider more trustful.
Photo 4. Food products that prevent the development of caries: vegetables, fruit, milk, meat and fish.
Now it’s time to go through the stages of tooth decay development. To understand it better we should learn more about the tooth:
Photo 5. Stages of caries development.
Early tooth decay is a small spot (a demineralized, i.e. damaged part of the tooth). In this case we are talking about damaged enamel. It can be treated with fluoride and some procedures without drilling. But if decay spreads further and impacts the dentine, which is much softer and less protected, and the tooth is destroyed with time going deeper to the gum. When it affects the pulp, people start feeling sharp pain. If untreated tooth decay may lead to unpleasant and sometimes even dangerous consequences (like blood infection).