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Healthy Living

Plaque

  • What is tooth decay?

  • How do teeth decay?

  • Is it very common?

  • What can I do if I have tooth decay?



  • What is tooth decay?

    Tooth Decay describes the condition wherein the tooth, under a variety of harsh conditions, breaks down leading to the formation of a cavity. It starts with a hole or opening in the enamel. If this is not treated, it progressively reaches the deeper sections of the tooth, where the pulp and the nerves cause the tooth to become sensitive to a variety of stimuli and gum problems such as inflammation and swelling. The tooth begins to pain and ultimately results in tooth loss.

    How do teeth decay?

    1.

    Plaque, which is a soft, sticky colourless film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth, combines with sugars present in food particles stuck between the teeth and turns them into acid which attacks the tooth enamel. With repeated acid attacks, the enamel wears away and a cavity is formed.

    2.

    This cavity forms the decay once a year and spreads to the next layer - the dentine. If the cavity is filled by a dentist, the decay can be stopped.

    3.

    If the cavity is not treated at the dentine stage, the decay spreads deeper into the pulp and this can be very painful.

    4.

    In the last stage, the decay spreads to the root and causes an abscess accompanied by severe pain. At this stage, only a root canal treatment can save the tooth. In some cases, the tooth may have to be extracted.


    Is it very common?

    Tooth decay is a common dental ailment that may occur at any time or age. However, since the onset of tooth decay is strongly related to the unregulated consumption of sweet foods and beverages, it tends to affect the young children and adolescents more than the older people. One form of tooth decay is diagnosed in nursing infants and is referred to as nursing caries.



    What can I do if I have tooth decay?

    If you have developed blackened spots on the inner or outer surfaces of your teeth, or a sensitive tooth, it is likely that you are in the first stages of tooth decay. Visit your dentist immediately to undertake a comprehensive evaluation. If the onset of tooth decay is detected, a dentist will follow certain procedures. He will

    • Make an opening in the crown and remove the diseased pulp.
    • Clean the tooth chambers and root canals and seal them with silver amalgam or a tooth coloured material to prevent bacteria from contaminating the canal.
    • Recommend the use of a fluoride-toothpaste that effectively prevents cavities.

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