Just like every other part of the body, the tooth is essential and is susceptible to variant foreign matters that in turn harm the body. Tooth decay, also known as dental caries or cavities, is a breakdown of teeth due to acids made by bacteria.
The cavities may be a number of different colors from yellow to black. Symptoms may include pain and difficulty with eating. Let’s see how tooth cavities are caused below:
Tooth cavities are caused by an interplay of 4 key factors: Food, enamel, bacteria and acid
When food (usually carbohydrates) adheres to the enamel of the teeth, it presents a good medium for the growth of bacteria, the growing bacteria produces acid and the acid further dissolves the enamel of the teeth, thus providing more space for food to adhere and repeat the cycle, thus, further worsening tooth decays. The most common bacteria involved in the formation of tooth cavities is Streptococccus mutans.
Who is affected?
Tooth cavities affects up to 2.4 billion people worldwide (about 36% of global population), it is the most prevalent condition worldwide among adults. It is also the 10th most prevalent medical condition among children. South America has the highest prevalence of Tooth decays. South America has the highest worldwide prevalence of Tooth cavities, while Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest prevalence of tooth decays.
Conditions that result in the reduced production of saliva e,g Sjorgen syndrome, Diabetes mellitus; and use of certain medications including anti-cholinergics and anti-histamines (which reduce saliva formation); as well as use of stimulants like Methamphetamine increase the risk of developing tooth cavities. This predisposition is because saliva is alkaline in nature and has the capacity to neutralize the acid produced by the breakdown of sugar containing compounds and the impaired production of saliva hastens the dissolution of enamel and the deterioration of the teeth.
What to do
Given that the causes of dental cavities are well known, basic steps can be taken to prevent the formation of dental cavities. These include:
- Improving dental hygiene: Practicing standard dental hygiene including brushing the teeth with fluoride containing toothpaste, flossing and ensuring one does not eat just before bed are veritable ways to prevent the formation of tooth cavities
- Dietary modification: reduction in meals that contain a high content of simple sugars e.g. carbonated soft drinks, cakes and other “junk foods” replacing them with meals containing fruits and vegetables have been proven to reduce the risk of developing dental cavities.
- Routine dental check-ups: establishing a culture of visiting the dentists routinely in the presence or absence of any symptoms could help identify risks of developing tooth cavities and could arrest any situation that predisposes individuals. Visiting the dentists could also help prevent the tooth cavities from worsening and result in an overall improvement in quality of life.
Common treatment for cavities include the use of fillings made from amalgam or porcelain, these are placed in the cavities after the removal of decayed materials. The filling of these cavities prevents its worsening and make the areas around the teeth more pleasing and improve the self-esteem of the individuals. A course of antibiotics is usually necessary. However, in cases where the cavity is extensive, there might be a need to extract the affected tooth
Ever experienced tooth cavity? What was it like? Let’s talk in the comments!