Dental caries, or tooth decay, are a common problem for adults and kids alike. If left untreated, tooth decay can cause pain or discomfort, and may lead to more problematic issues like gum disease or tooth loss.
Tooth decay occurs when plaque, a sticky acidic substance, builds up on your teeth and breaks down the natural protective layer, known as the enamel. Over time, the plaque will erode the enamel and dentine (the softer layer underneath the enamel) of the tooth, causing a hole known as a cavity.
It doesn’t take long for plaque to develop in your mouth. In fact, it takes approximately 20 minutes for plaque to build up on the teeth’s surfaces – or in the crevices between them – after eating. If the plaque is not removed, the bacteria can develop and cause tooth decay. If the plaque and bacteria enters the pulp chamber – which is located at the centre of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels – the resulting bacterial infection of the pulp tissues can cause pain or lead to a dental abscess.
The best way to prevent dental caries or tooth decay is to watch your diet, maintain great oral hygiene at home and get your teeth cleaned and checked by a professional, as specified by your dentist.
The presence of tooth decay is sometimes the result of unhealthy lifestyles or diets. For example, eating high carb foods that are rich in sugar or starch can increase the risks. Lifestyle habits like smoking may also hinder the body’s natural ability to produce saliva, which acts as a cleaning agent for the teeth.
In the same way, people with dry mouth syndrome are also more prone to decay, so there are also uncontrollable factors that contribute to tooth decay.
Maintaining a regular oral hygiene habit remains one of the most effective means of reducing the risk of tooth decay. Your dentist or hygienist can advise on the best techniques for brushing and flossing. However, the importance of pairing this routine at-home regime with regular visits to your dental health provider cannot be overemphasised. In addition to being highly effective for the prevention of dental caries and tooth decay, regular checks-and-cleans significantly reduce the risk for other issues like gum disease or oral cancer.
A professional cleaning session also ensures that you receive a deep cleaning procedure that removes plaque build-up that is either too tough to remove or too difficult to reach through regular brushing and flossing. Along with your routine home cleaning regime, regular dental checks and professional cleans will not only keep your teeth and gums in good shape, they can even help your dentist prevent problems before they start.
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