The etiology of dental decay
The changes on surfaces of teeth after food intake
The consequences of dental decay
The process of dental decay
The treatment of dental decay
The prevention of dental decay
   

The etiology of dental decay

There is a layer of dental plaque, which is an adherent deposit of bacteria and their products forms on all teeth surfaces. Bacteria in dental plaque will undergo a process of metabolism utilizing fermentable carbohydrates in diet to produce acid for a minimum length of time and cause dental decay.

The changes on surfaces of teeth after food intake

After the intake of food, cariogenic bacteria in dental plaque produce acid rapidly from fermentable carbohydrate in diet. This results in a rapid drop in plaque pH to a level which can cause demineralization of dental enamel. Saliva can function as buffer to neutralize the acid produced and returned to normal pH after 30 minutes. Repeated and frequent consumption of sugar will keep plaque pH depressed and cause demineralization of teeth. This increases the chance of tooth decay. Demineralization of tooth surface

The consequences of dental decay

Affect chewing ability.
Affect general appearance.
Leads to pain constantly and may delete affect daily work. It may casue disturbance to sleep too.
If the nerve tissues of the baby tooth are damaged by dental decay, any inflammation or germs remain in the nerve tissues from the damage would cause defects and structural changes during the growth of the permanent tooth.

If a baby tooth is lost in a premature stage because of dental decay, the teeth remain on both sides will gradually move towards the empty space of where the baby tooth was. As a result, the permanent tooth will not have sufficient space to grow in a health form.
Avoid smoking and eating volatile food.

The process of dental decay

For early carious lesion, the tooth surface is intact, the area of caries appear as a 'white spot', which is a small, opaque, white area that is also hard and shiny but without any symptoms.
If the carious lesion progresses, the intact surface breaks down and a hole is formed (a cavity), food would pack there and stimulate the nerve endings of tooth and causing pain.
When the carious lesion progresses to the nerve endings, inflammation of dental nerve tissues result in tissue necrosis and a spread of inflammation into periapical tissues. It will form a dental abscess at the end. The acute dental infection may cause severe pain, facial swelling or fever.

The treatment of dental decay

For the early carious lesion, dentist can apply topical fluoride on the tooth surface in a regular basis to stop the progression of the dental decay.
When a dental cavity is formed, the decay has to be removed and filled by some dental materials in order to restore the integrity and function of teeth.
When the carious lesion progresses to the nerve endings of a tooth, root canal treatment can be performed to remove the inflamed tissues. The remaining tooth structure could then be strengthened and restored by the construction of a dental crown. For tooth that is severely broken down and non-restorable, it has to be extracted.

The prevention of dental decay

Control the amount and frequency of sugary food intake in order to reduce the chance of acid attack.
A good oral hygiene habit using fluoridated toothpaste, correct methods of tooth brushing and using dental floss will help preventing dental decay.
Dentist can apply fissure sealants to the occlusal surfaces of teeth with deep pits and fissures to obliterate the fissures and thus preventing dental decay.
Having regular dental visits and oral check ups are crucial. When there are early signs and symptoms of dental disease, it can be diagnosed and treated accordingly.