What is tooth decay and how can it happen?
A significant proportion of society has experienced tooth decay at some point of their life. But what could be the reason for this phenomenon? We know that the oral cavity is inhabited by a wide variety of microorganisms, primarily bacteria. These bacteria feed themselves on the food debris remaining in the oral cavity following meals. Their primary source of energy is carbohydrates, mainly simple sugars. The metabolism of these bacteria results in by-products: organic acidic compounds. Since the main compound that maintains the structural stability of teeth are calcium salts (calcium phosphate) the organic acids can react with this material, resulting in its dissolution. This in itself would not be a problem, as the teeth’s mineral content is constantly undergoing formation and degradation. The issue occurs when the rate of mineral breakdown exceeds the rate of degradation. The result is tooth decay, which can manifest with varying severity. In some cases the decay might affect only the surface of the tooth, but in other more severe cases it can form cavities in the tooth. This leads to the tooth’s structural and functional disintegration.
How can I detect tooth decay?
Often patients affected by tooth decay do not notice it themselves until attending an appointment at the dentist or experiencing complications. The earliest sign of tooth decay that can be observed is a small, white patch on the tooth’s surface called a microcavity. This is an indicator of the initiation of the tooth’s mineral content’s breakdown. This patch may turn brown over time and start forming a cavity. Prior to the formation of the cavity it is possible to reverse this process. However, once the cavity is present the structure can not be restored without dental intervention.
Once the decay has gone through the enamel and reached the dentin, the dentinal tubules get exposed. These tubules are connected to the underlying nerve. As the decay progresses through the dentin you might start experiencing pain, which can be worsened by certain conditions, such as particularly cold, hot or sweet foods and drinks getting in contact with the affected tooth. In case the bacteria have reached to and affected the pulp tissue of the tooth, the pain you are experiencing can become constant.
What kinds of treatment are available for tooth cavities?
Generally the treatment you receive will depend on the extent your tooth or teeth have decayed. In very severe cases the decayed tooth has to be removed, and replaced with a dental implant. However, if the pulp tissue of the tooth has not been affected, you can get fillings. We provide white fillings in Burnham, and these are used as an alternative to the traditional filling material. Fillings are often made out of amalgam, which results in an observable metallic discolouration of the tooth. Our white fillings in Burnham provide an alternative to amalgam, as the colour of these fillings is very similar to the original colour of the teeth. This can be a great solution for patients who require fillings, but would like to avoid the traditional based methods.