It’s not wise to take your teeth for granted. But even when practicing the best hygiene, you can still run into problems – which first arise with the arrival of tooth decay. How does tooth decay develop, and what can you do to stop it? What happens when you get that dreaded diagnosis?
These are all important questions, and there is no single answer. Tooth decay may be a signal that you need to make changes in your diet or your hygiene and habits. Addressing decay once it arrives could be very simple or very complicated. Knowing the answer to “how does tooth decay develop?” gives you the perspective to get active in preventing it from appearing in the first place. Splendid Dental Atascocita can educate you and provide the services you need to prevent tooth decay.
What is Tooth Decay?
Your teeth start encased in a hard shell of enamel that provides you with a strong layer of protection, both from injury and the foods and beverages you consume. Tooth decay is the condition that follows when that enamel starts to break down, or disappears entirely.
When the enamel gets softer, is damaged or wears away, your teeth are exposed, and you’re susceptible to a wide array of dental problems, such as cavities or infections. In extreme cases, the destruction of the enamel leads to enough damage that you lose your tooth entirely. That requires some advanced dental care, up to and including a root canal or dental implants. This is the first part of the answer to the question, “how does tooth decay develop?”
How Does Tooth Decay Develop?
Tooth decay is the result of a chain reaction of events involving what you eat and drink. Foods that contain carbohydrates — complex starches and sugars — are left to sit in, around, and between your teeth.
Natural bacteria that live in your mouth then break these food residues down further, creating damaging acids. The acids turn into plaque, which then proceeds to eat into the enamel, setting the stage for severe problems.
This is the main reason why dentists stress the need to practice good dental hygiene habits — brushing and flossing and rinsing. The better you are at keeping food from clinging to your teeth, the less chance you have for this chain reaction to occur.
Don’t think that brushing and flossing is a foolproof way of keeping decay at bay, though. Sometimes decay happens even with the best of intentions.
Signs of Tooth Decay
The maddening thing about tooth decay is that often you only become aware of it when it’s too late. If it leads to cavities or other painful dental conditions, you’ve probably already lost the enamel — and there’s no getting it back. Sometimes you can only spot tooth decay on X-rays. But some of the signals that you might have a problem include:
- Sharp toothache
- Extremely sensitive to cold or warm beverages, or too sweet foods.
- White or brown stains
- A cavity, which is a hole in the tooth
- An infection
The key preventive measures to head off tooth decay are ones you have in your control — your diet and your hygiene. Limit the amount of sweet and starchy foods, and brush and floss faithfully, and you may be able to keep decay to a minimum. If not, a visit to the dentist will help limit the damage.
Smile Wide Again
Time has a way of taking its toll on all of us. And sometimes, even when you do the best you can to care for your teeth, decay sets in. Lovett Splendid Atascocita has the team to give you the help you need and answer the frequently asked question. Our years of experience in all facets of dentistry will produce a treatment plan to address decay in the way that works best. We also support your family’s complete dental needs, whether through professional teeth cleaning, fillings and sealants, dental crowns and bridges, or specialized services such as dental implants. Contact us at 832.430.7652 when you need us.