In order to understand how to stop tooth decay from spreading, let’s discuss a little about the tooth decay process and how it causes an erosion of a tooth.
Tooth decay as you know is a process that can damage teeth.
This process can result in the formation of a cavity or hole in a tooth.
Cavities or holes in the teeth are also known as dental caries.
If the tooth decay is not treated promptly, over time it can cause an infection, pain, or even loss of teeth.
The mouth is full of bacteria, many different types of which live on the gums, tongue, and teeth.
Some of this bacteria is helpful while others are harmful.
The harmful bacteria aid in expediting the tooth decay process.
The damage to a tooth occurs through the tooth decay process when decay-initiating bacteria in the mouth combine with sugars and starches from food and candy thereby forming plaque.
Plaque is a sticky clear film that coats the teeth.
The plaque can stay on the teeth and harden causing something called tartar.
This tartar makes it more difficult to remove the plaque hence creating a shield for further manifestation of bad bacteria in the mouth.
The bacteria in the plaque mixed with the sugars and starches in food, candy, and drinks can make acids.
These acids then begin to eat away at the surface of the tooth or the outer layer known as the enamel.
With enough acids in plaque over time, the minerals in the tooth begin to be removed and this erosion can form tiny openings or holes in the formation of what will eventually become a cavity.
After the tooth decay process forms a cavity, the enamel will continue to degrade based on the bacteria and acids eating away through the tooth.
Once the decay has worn away areas of the enamel, it will reach the next layer of the tooth known as the dentin layer.
This is a softer layer than the enamel and less resistant to the bacteria and acid than the enamel. The dentin layer is in contact with the tooth nerve. Once the decay reaches this layer, tooth sensitivity may occur.
The tooth decay will continue on past the dentin layer into the center of the tooth known as the pulp. This area once affected has the potential to lead to a toothache.
The pulp layer contains blood vessels and nerves. The pulp layer can become swollen due to bacteria and when that happens, the swelling presses down on the nerves causing pain.
Essentially, a daily struggle takes place in our mouths. This is a struggle between acid producing bacteria which eat away at the tooth surface or enamel and the minerals in our saliva, fluoride in toothpaste, mouthwash, etc. which help to mitigate this eating away of the tooth surface or acid attack.
So, with a brief understanding of how the tooth decay process happens, what are some procedures to stop tooth decay from spreading?
Step 1 – Go to the Dentist
A visit to the dentist is a scary experience for many people. It is often something put off time and time again. However, it is important to take the time now to schedule an appointment with a licensed oral care professional who can help you better understand issues related to your own teeth, mouth, and gums.
This is especially the case if you notice symptoms of advanced tooth decay such as discomfort or pain in or around the mouth, sensitivity to sweet, hot, or cold foods, white, then later dark spots on the teeth, or a difficulty biting down on specific foods.
A dentist can do x-rays, a thorough checkup, and other routine procedures which can further assist in preventing tooth decay from spreading.
An example of a routine procedure at the dentist is a thorough cleaning of the teeth, mouth, and gums which will aid in providing further defense against the spread of tooth decay.
Treatments such as a fluoride treatment, a filling for a cavity, a root canal whereby there is removal of the decayed pulp and cleaning of the inside of the tooth then the tooth is filled with a temporary filling until you come back for a permanent filling or crown (essentially a cover on the tooth), extraction or pulling of a tooth, can all be performed at the dentist.
It is crucially labeled as step one toward stopping the tooth decay process especially in regard to the later stages that penetrate the dentin and pulp layers.
Tip: Ask your dentist about dental sealants. A dental sealant is a thin plastic coating painted onto the molars or back teeth.
Sealants can cover the pits and grooves of these back teeth where food/bacteria may get stuck and where toothbrush bristles may have a hard time. The sealants act as a barrier helping to prevent the food/bacteria from getting trapped in the pits and grooves of the back teeth.
Step 2 – Floss and Brush Your Teeth At Least Twice A Day
Do your best to floss after every meal and then brush your teeth after flossing with a fluoride-containing toothpaste.
At the very least, work toward flossing once a day and brushing your teeth twice a day.
Flossing first before brushing is a recommendation to the patients of periodontist Sasha Ross, DMD, MS according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Ross also recommends that one of the two times out of the day that you brush your teeth, it should be done for at least two entire minutes in length.
Dr. Ross also recommends using an electric toothbrush, which has a rotating head to help more effectively clean teeth and a built-in timer that aids in identifying the two minute mark.
Step 3 – Use a Mouthwash with Fluoride
Using a fluoride containing mouthwash otherwise known as a mouth rinse can be helpful in stopping early tooth decay from spreading. It is important to use a mouthwash in conjunction with both flossing and brushing and never as a substitute.
Step 4 – Limit Candy, Sugar, and Sodas
These are crucial elements for the breeding ground of bad bacteria that can cause tooth decay. It is wise to limit ingestion of these items in an effort to stop early tooth decay from manifesting or spreading.
Step 5 – Avoid Tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco
Tobacco products such as cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and other forms of tobacco can cause oral cancer and gum disease, among other oral health problems. There is a higher amount of untreated tooth decay in people who smoke cigarettes. Using smokeless tobacco is associated with causation of white patches inside the mouth (oral leukoplakia) and an increased risk of oral cancer.
Did you know? Saliva is actually a powerful natural defense against tooth decay. It can aid in stopping the damaging effect of acid attack from bacteria, help to reverse early stages of tooth decay by repairing minerals in the tooth, and help to wash sugar out of the mouth into the stomach region. Stay well hydrated to improve your saliva.
Fluoride and saliva are two beautiful shields for teeth against the swords of acidic attack proliferated from plaque and bacteria.
Tip: Avoid excessive dry mouth as having a dry mouth can increase the likelihood of risk toward tooth decay. If you are experiencing dry mouth often, consult with your oral care professional or doctor in order to find and alleviate the cause.