Oral hygiene and health are central pillars of our overall health. One of the most common dental health problems people have is tooth decay, as dental caries are the most common non-communicable condition both in the UK and worldwide.
However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean you can ignore it. Tooth decay can lead to serious issues if left untreated. Let’s discuss how to prevent tooth decay and find the treatment you need!
Understanding the Stages of Tooth Decay
Before we discuss prevention, let’s first understand the stages of tooth decay.
Tooth enamel is the hardest substance found in the human body. However, it can quickly deteriorate with acid and certain bacteria, which are both frequent guests in our mouths.
Fortunately, if you notice it soon enough, you can do something about it. Here are the stages of tooth decay and the recommended treatment for each stage.
White, Chalky Spots
If you notice white, “chalky” spots on your teeth, this is the first sign of tooth decay. When you notice this first sign, it’s still treatable without any major procedures.
A common misconception is that teeth are the only part of the human body that can’t repair themselves. While they aren’t as efficient as other parts of our body, they can still repair moderate decay like this.
Therefore, quickly treating the area by following the preventative measures we’ll mention later and a visit to the dentist will help prevent any expensive or invasive procedures. Keep the area as clean as possible and avoid acidic and sugary foods and beverages until you visit your dentist.
Otherwise, if left to persist, decay can spread, leading to stage two.
Visible Brown Decay
Once you have visible, brownish decay on the enamel, the decay will quickly turn into cavities. At this point, you will need a filling from your dentist, but don’t wait. As the cavity deepens, the requirements for treatment become greater.
At first, the dentist may not have to drill into your teeth. This is ideal for a faster procedure that maximises your natural enamel.
After the enamel on the outer layer, decay can reach the dentin. This is the inner enamel, which is softer and more vulnerable to acidity and bacteria. Unfortunately, once the decay reaches the dentin, decay can spread much faster.
After the dentin, decay can reach the pulp of your tooth, which carries your blood vessels and nerves connected to your tooth. This is also known as the “root”.
Once tooth decay reaches the root of your tooth, it can damage the nerve, quickly spread to your jaw, and cause serious health risks and complications. At this point, you will need a root canal procedure to address the issue and potentially save the tooth.
Otherwise, this can lead to infections that can quickly spread to other parts of the body, including the brain. This is a key reason why oral health is essential for your overall health. At this point, you may need a crown or even an extraction and dental implant.
How to Prevent Tooth Decay
Now you know the stages of tooth decay, let’s talk about preventing it altogether. Remember, prevention is the key to avoiding expensive and invasive procedures later on!
Follow a Proper Oral Hygiene Routine
Every day and night, before and after you sleep, make sure to floss, brush, and rinse. Follow those three steps in that order for the best results.
Otherwise, you will miss certain areas on your teeth when you brush or mouthwash. Remove any food or obstructions first by flossing. Then, thoroughly but gently brush your teeth for at least two minutes.
Finally, rinse your mouth with an enamel-strengthening rinse. Try to swish it around in your mouth as best as you can, especially between your teeth, which is harder to reach with your brush. Remember, brushing and flossing will only reach around 25% of your mouth, whereas a rinse can reach all of it.
Avoid Sugary Foods
Although we didn’t have the technology, toothpaste, or any other oral health practices we take for granted today, tooth decay wasn’t as much of an issue centuries ago. Largely, this is because most of us now consume processed sugars and foods that cause tooth decay on a daily basis.
Sugar helps feed the bacteria in your mouth to grow, which contributes greatly to tooth decay. This is especially challenging with sugary beverages, such as sweetened coffee and tea, milk, soda, juice, and more, as the sugar spreads through your mouth more evenly.
Try eating a healthier diet consisting of more fibre, complex carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. Sugar is incredibly addictive and challenging to avoid entirely, so try your best to limit your intake.
Schedule a Regular Dental Visit
You should visit your dentist once every six months for a dental cleaning. Flossing and brushing habits are important, but they only go so far on their own. Nothing beats the deep cleaning you can get from your dentist.
Also, this is a critical step toward identifying and addressing tooth decay early on. The sooner you do, the easier it will be to treat.
Can Tooth Decay Be Reversed?
As we mentioned before, if you catch it early enough, your body can reverse the effects of tooth decay without treatment.
If not, you will need a procedure to isolate and address the issue so your body can do the rest.
Can You Remove Tooth Decay Yourself?
If you’ve passed stage one, it’s unlikely you can address the issue on your own.
Either way, talk to your dentist to see what’s right for you.
Visit a Dentist Near You
Now that you know about treating and preventing tooth decay, remember to address decay as early as possible. If it’s already spread far, don’t assume that it “isn’t even worth it”, as the situation can always get worse. Avoiding an infection, or any next stage, is worth immediate attention.
Stay up to date with our latest dental tips, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or to schedule an appointment.