Most of use know that tooth decay happen due to the formation of cavities in the teeth. However, not many of us know why we call it the cavity and is it such a big deal. For this we must first understand what is the anatomy of the tooth. Well its made up of 3 layers,
- The most layer is called the enamel, which is the hard protective coating made of calcium and phosphate minerals, Its the enamel which gives the teeth its sparkle and strength to bite into the harder foods & at times things. One can argue that its the hardest part of the body.
- Just below the enamel is the Dentine, Its a calcareous tissue that forms most of the tooth and protects the innermost pulp.
The Pulp is the central part of the teeth which contains most of the nerves and blood vessels that provide much needed nutrition for the health of the tooth.
Now that you know the composition of the teeth.. lets look at how this process of tooth decay begins.
Tooth Decay Stage 1: Disintegration of the Enamel
The mouth is home to billions and billions of bacteria which reside on the teeth, tongue, gums etc. of the mouth. These bacteria are of different types, hundreds for that matter. Some are good, some not so good. These not so good bacteria’s feed on sugar and release acid as by product. The more sugary food you eat the more acid is released. This acid eventually starts to dilute the mineral based enamel. Eventually, showing early signs of decay by leaving behind a white spot. Over a period of time it completely dissolves the enamel and reached the dentine. Thus forming an irreversibly cavity.
Some of the things you can do to protect your enamel: The enamel keeps repairing itself with calcium and phosphate form the saliva and fluorine from the toothpaste. Hence, by just brushing your teeth with a good toothpaste twice a day could help keep protect your enamel. Using a fluorine wash could help aswell.
The toothache only begin when the decay has reached the dentine layer. Hence, it pays to visit your dentist could identify the early sings of dental decay and suggest corrective steps. If the cavity has reached the dentine layer, the dentist can stop further progress by filling the enamel cavity.
Tooth Decay Stage 2: Disintegration of the Dentine
If you keep ignoring the initial toothache and let the cavity build the pain will only get more prominent. Your tooth will become more sensitive to hold and cold intakes. This will happen because the acid has now started to decay the inner dentine layer. You will start noticing the dark yellow or black plague formation on the affected area.
The only way to treat dentine decay is to drill out the decayed tissues and replace with filling and may require Inlay, onlay, overlay made of composite, porcelain and/or gold.
Tooth Decay Stage 3: Disintegration of the Pulp
If you still keep ignoring the toothache and keep neglecting basic dental hygiene. Over a period of few weeks or months the decay will start to eat into the pulp of the teeth. As the pulp gets infected, pus formation takes places which infects the nerves and blood vessels until they are completely degenerated. If you allow the decay to eat-up the whole pulp there is formation of abscess & the teeth dies. Consequently, the entire teeth has to be replaced.
Treatment for pulp decay: If the pulp is completely eaten away the only option is to replace the teeth. However, if you visit the doctor when the pulp decay has only started a root canal therapy is the only option. The dentist will remove all the decayed pulp all the way to the root canal treatment . Disinfect the tooth and insert filling to completely seal off the tooth and prevent further decay.
As you can see the formation of tooth decay takes months and just by following basic oral hygienes like the 5 essential things for healthier teeth. Also, its difficult for a normal person to truly identify the extent of damage to the teeth. Even if you are following a good oral routine you must visit your best dentist atleast once a year. He will help you keep your teeth’s healthy till your old age.