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Tooth decay or cavities are permanently damaged areas in the hard surface of the teeth that develop into tiny openings or holes. Cavities, also called tooth decay or caries, are caused by cavity formation which damages both the outer layer known as ‘enamel’ and the inner layer of the tooth known as ‘dentin’.
When remnants of food such as milk, cereal, chocolates, fruit or cake get stuck in the teeth, they get transformed into acid by the bacteria. The mixture of the acid with the food remnants along with the bacteria and saliva forms plaques around the teeth, the high acidic content of which causes cavities to form around the enamel. In its advanced stages, the cavity tends to destroy the blood vessels and nerves of the tooth.
Cavities and tooth decay are among the world's most common health problems. They're especially common in children, teenagers and older adults. But anyone who has teeth can get cavities, including infants. If cavities aren't treated, they get larger and affect deeper layers of your teeth. They can lead to a severe toothache, infection and tooth loss. Regular dental visits and good brushing and flossing habits are your best protection against cavities and tooth decay.
- Regular consumption of high carbohydrate food and sweets might result in cavity formation in your teeth.
- In older people, the gums tend to get separated from the teeth. This might make the teeth more vulnerable to plaque infection.
- The teeth filling tends to decay as you grow old. This might result in cavity formations.
- As you get old, the secretion of naturally produced fluoride which helps in cavity prevention, diminishes, thus making you more prone to tooth decays.
- Experiencing severe pain in the tooth every time you eat something sweet, cold or hot.
- Tooth becoming extremely sensitive.
- Formation of holes in the tooth, coupled with brown or black stains on the tooth surface.
After diagnosis, the damaged part of the tooth is removed with the help of a drill. Gold, silver or alloy fillings replace the hole formed due to the cavity. Also, root canal might be recommended if the tooth roots are destroyed completely. The tissues and other blood vessels of the tooth are replaced by a secured material.
Tooth decay can be prevented if you maintain daily oral hygiene such as using fluoride toothpaste for brushing your teeth, attending regular dental check-ups as you age and completely eliminating high carbohydrate and sugar-based foods from your diet.
Root canal treatment is a procedure to save or repair a decayed tooth. Without proper treatment, the decayed tooth might get infected and adversely affect the health of the gums as well as rest of the teeth. Abscessed tooth (pus formation in a tooth owing to an infection) may also pose as another major complication if this condition is not treated at the right time. In this procedure, the pulp and the nerve of the decayed tooth are removed; this absence of a nerve in your tooth should not affect your daily routine and also not inflict any pain.
When is root canal treatment needed?
Root canal treatment is only required when dental X-rays show that the pulp has been damaged by a bacterial infection. The pulp will begin to die if it's infected by bacteria, allowing the bacteria to then multiply and spread.
The symptoms of a pulp infection include:
- pain when eating or drinking hot or cold food and drink
- pain when biting or chewing
- a loose tooth
As the infection progresses, these symptoms often disappear as the pulp dies. Your tooth then appears to have healed, but the infection has in fact spread through the root canal system.
Further symptoms eventually occur, such as:
- pain when biting or chewing returning
- swelling of the gum near the affected tooth
- pus oozing from the affected tooth
- facial swelling
- the tooth becoming a darker colour
Leaving the infected tooth in your mouth may make it worse. There may also be less chance of the root canal treatment working if the infection within your tooth becomes established.
Antibiotics – medication to treat bacterial infections – aren't effective in treating root canal infections.
What happens during a root canal procedure?
A root canal can be performed by an endodontist (root canalling specialist) or a dentist. To treat the infection in the root canal, the bacteria need to be removed. This can be done by either:
- removing the bacteria from the root canal system (root canal treatment)
- removing the tooth (extraction)
At the very onset, an X-ray will be performed to see the size of the infection and the condition of the surrounding gums. The dentist will then apply anesthesia on that spot. It is important to keep the spot as dry as possible. Next, the dentist will put a rubber sheet around your teeth, after which a hole will be drilled to remove the decayed tissues. After the process, you wash your teeth, either with sodium hypochlorite or normal water.
Before having root canal treatment, you'll usually be given a local anaesthetic. This means the procedure shouldn't be painful and should be no more unpleasant than having a filling.
Root canal treatment is usually successful. In about 9 out of 10 cases, a tooth can survive for up to 10 years after root canal treatment. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!
Dental erosion is the erosion of the upper surface and the enamel of your teeth. The enamel is the thin outer covering of the teeth and the cover of the crown which is the visible part of the tooth below the gums. There are no living/active cells in enamel and thus, cannot be repaired once it is damaged. Dental erosion happens when acids wear down the enamel, thus resulting in pain and subsequent decay.
A few causes could be:
- Consuming soft drinks which have large amounts of phosphoric and citric acids.
- Consumption of fruit-flavored candies or sweets
- Acid Reflux disease can also be one major cause
- Genetics or hereditary conditions
- Following a high sugar content diet
- Improper care and friction
There are a few other causes of dental erosion. The prominent ones are:
- Attrition: There is a natural tooth to tooth friction that happens when you grind your teeth, particularly during sleep. This phenomenon is called attrition.
- Abrasion: The physical wear and tear caused due to biting hard objects and chewing tobacco on a regular basis.
- Corrosion: The damage caused due to high acidic content foods.
Dental erosion has to be treated early and you should consult your dentist before it causes permanent damage to your teeth. If the structure of your tooth is affected, then it may require complex and surgical treatment such as fillings, root canal or dental implant. The span of treatment may vary depending upon the complexity of your condition.
Certain precautionary measures are:
- You should eat a healthy and a well-balanced diet
- You should drink more of water (about 2-3 liters each day) as compared to processed juices or cold drinks
- Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco
- Don’t drink fruit juices, rather eat the fruit itself
In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!