A majority of people in India, especially children, suffer from tooth decay. This can be extremely painful, as most of us have experienced. But this need not be so. In fact, decay need not occur at all. This pain, and all the other complications that it may lead to, are avoidable. The incidence of tooth decay can be greatly reduced, to the extent that it may be totally eliminated in most cases.
Our aim is to achieve freedom from cavities. All one needs to do is to follow a few simple steps.
Each tooth consists of 2 parts: the crown and the roots. Only the crown is visible in the mouth. The roots are in the bone, under the gums.
The crown of the tooth has an outer shell made of a very hard substance called enamel. The inside of the tooth is made of a less hard substance called dentin. It is this layer which can be sensitive when exposed to the mouth atmosphere. The centre of the tooth is hollow and contains the nerve.
What is tooth decay
Our mouth is full of bacteria. In fact, bacteria are everywhere. The food we eat combines with saliva and bacteria to form a sticky coating on the teeth. This sticky coating is called plaque and it plays an important role in tooth decay. When sugar is available to the bacteria in plaque, they act on it and secrete acids. These acids erode tooth enamel. After repeated acid attacks the enamel breaks down and a cavity is formed.
Decay occurs most often on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. This is because these surfaces have deep pits and fissures, where even the toothbrush bristles cannot reach.
Treatment of Tooth Decay
Once decay has started and a cavity has formed, it becomes necessary to treat it to prevent the process from extending further.
When decay is limited to enamel: Treatment at this initial stage is preventive in nature because it will stop the decay process from extending to deeper areas of the tooth. All that is necessary is a simple filling. It is usually painless at this stage. Your dentist will clean out the decayed part of enamel and fill the resulting cavity with either silver amalgam, or preferably, with the newer tooth coloured composite material.
When decay has extended to dentin: This may be painful after eating or with cold water. Food is likely to be lodged in the cavity. Treatment at this stage consists of a more extensive filling. It may be necessary to numb the area during treatment. One of the above materials may be used.
When decay has reached the nerve: Serve pain is the usual complaint. The invading bacteria cause the nerve of the tooth to become inflamed. Root canal treatment will be necessary at this stage if the tooth has to be saved.
Infection reaches bone: The bacteria destroy the nerve and spread to the bone of the jaw. The bone is thus inflamed and infected. The infection may erode through the side of the bone into the mouth, face or neck to cause a swelling.
Examples of Badly Decayed Mouths
This particular case is in progress. The AFTER photograph will be put-up as soon as it is completed.
Example of a mouth full of decay
This picture shows decay in deep pits and fissures
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