Dental Caries (Tooth Decay) and How to Prevent Them

Tooth cavity aka Dental Caries is one of the most common chronic disease of modern times. It can also leads to tooth loss. Dental caries is a multifactorial, infectious oral disease caused by microbial oral flora. In simple terms, tooth decay causes the breakdown of enamel i.e. is the outermost layer of the visible tooth structure. Bacteria causes the disintegration of food particles stuck in our teeth. Resulting to production of acids that destroys the enamel leading to tooth decay otherwise called as tooth cavity.

Although caries is very difficult to treat and control, but the most challenging part is to assess the risk factors and then proceed to preventive care. With the recent advances the caries prevalence has decreased in the developed countries by fluoride usage in community water. But facilities like that has yet to arrive in India.

The latest surveys conducted by the “Dental council of India”, states that about 65% of the total general population of India experience some kind of dental caries. Oral Health is an important component of  general health and most of the dental diseases are preventable including dental caries. Now, lets learn about the modifying factors to dental caries.

What causes tooth decay?

The primary factor of tooth decay is dental plaque. Plaque is a thin layer of soft, translucent mass that gets adhered to outer tooth surface after every meal. There are more than 350 species of bacteria present in your oral cavity but only few has the ability to cause destruction. These destructive bacteria get aggregated to the plaque causing cavity.

Other contributing factors are:

  1. Diet
  2. Tooth Morphology (shape/size/structure of tooth)
  3. Time
  4. Saliva
  5. Heredity
  6. Sex/race/occupation

Among the above factors diet is a major contributor. With the introduction of sugar , sugary drinks, food and snacks the incidence of cavity have increased. They are made of refined sugar and carbs. Hence are sticky, gelatinous and sticks to the tooth surface. Also the consumption of snacks in between meals promotes caries. This disturbs the ph balance of saliva causing it to be acidic.

What can We do to Prevent them?

  1. Improve your oral hygiene.
  2. Diet Modifications.
  3. Fluorides
  4. Sealants

1. Improving Oral Hygiene :

Plaque control is vital in caries prevention. Regular brushing , flossing, mouthwashes can help maintain good oral health and reduce plaque formation.

  • Toothbrushes play a major role in this. They vary from size , shape and material. There are three kinds of tooth brush bristles : hard, medium, soft. Medium bristled brush are usually recommended & soft bristles are for patients with gum(periodontal) problems. You must brush twice daily, once in the morning and once before bedtime using fluoridated tooth pastes.
  • The choice of your Toothpaste matters the most. People don’t pay much attention to which paste they are using. Your toothpaste must contain fluoride in it. Fluoride acts as a therapeutic agent and is necessary for your overall oral hygiene. If you are experiencing gum or sensitivity problems, toothpaste with desensitizing agents might help with your condition.
  • Inter dental aids, used for areas that are difficult to reach by normal toothbrushing. This is done using cleaning aids like Dental floss and interdental brushes. The Dental floss are made of nylon and can be waxed or unwaxed. They clean the interdental as well as the proximal areas efficiently. You can ask your dentist to demonstrate the correct technique of flossing during your dental visit.
  • Inter dental brushes are cone shaped brush with nylon bristles available in different sizes. They are inexpensive and effective for cleaning wide interdental spaces. Don’t confuse them with wooden toothpicks that are commonly used and do more harm than good.
  • Mouthwash are the chemical agents for plaque control. Having anti microbial properties, Chlorhexidine(CHX)  is the gold standard and 0.12% CHX is usually prescribed before bedtime for 2weeks. Some other example of rinses are Listerine. Betadine, Colgate ,etc.

2. Diet Modification :

Some protective food includes cheese, milk, fibrous green leafy veggies and artificial sweeteners. They have anti – cariogenic effects and stimulates your salivary secretion to enhance the good bacteria. Modern diet lacks phytates(organic phosphates) which fight against cavity. Along with these you have to keep in mind these following dietary recommendations :

  • Reduce your frequency and amount of sugary food and drinks.
  • Avoid snacking as well as junks in between your meals.
  • Encourage yourself to eat anti cariogenic food
  • Have a high protein and low refined carb diet plan.
  • Add vitamin D and vitamin B complex in your diet

3. Fluorides:

Fluorides in small amount can increase your bacteria fighting capacity. Not only that they are essential for growth and development. In your oral cavity fluorides interfere with bacterial enzymes and inhibit their glucose uptake. They also aid in tooth morphology modification and prevents bacterial adhesion.

Fluorides are of two kind, the topical and the systemic fluorides. You can apply the topical ones by yourself in form of toothpastes, mouthwash, gels and solutions. On the other hand, you will find systemic fluorides in drops, tablets and community fluoridated water.

4. Sealants :

Tooth consists of the chewing (occlusal) side and the proximal (interdental) sides. The chewing surface consists of pit and fissures, they are the most vulnerable for tooth decay. Ask your dentist about dental sealants to protect the tooth from decay.

Traditional caries management strategies involve surgical model i.e. removal of infected tooth structure. But newer policies emphasize on disease prevention and conservation of your tooth. Nevertheless, regular visit to your dentist for professional cleaning and oral exams is mandatory.

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