Tooth decay is caused by the destruction of the tooth enamel, which is the hard, outer layer of the teeth and also the underlying layer dentin. It is a common problem in children, teens and adults.
Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria, which constantly forms on the teeth. When we eat or drink foods containing refined sugars, the bacteria in plaque produces some acids which can damage the tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with the teeth and over time, the enamel starts breaking down. This decaying of teeth results in cavities.
Cavities are more common in children, but changes due to aging cause cavities in adults too. Recession of the gums away from the teeth, along with an increased incidence of gum disease, exposes the roots of the teeth to plaque. Teeth roots are covered with a tissue softer than enamel called cementum. They are more sensitive to touch, hot, cold and more susceptible to decay. Tooth-root decay is very common for people over age 50.
Decay around the fillings is also common for older adult. Many older adults who did not get the benefits of using fluoride toothpaste and preventive dental care when they were young, usually ends up with a number of dental fillings. Over the years, these fillings weaken and tend to rupture around the edges making easy for bacterial accumulation causing acid to build up which leads to decay.
Tooth Decay symptoms include:
Cavities are formed mainly due to lack of oral care and unhealthy food habits. Dentists can advice practising preventive measures to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
There are no symptoms associated with the early stages of cavity formation, hence, seeing a dentist once or twice a year for examination is highly recommended. It is very important to detect spots and stop them before they advance to cavity formation. If there is tooth pain or sensitivity, consult a dentist immediately.
Authored By Dr Sanjay N - Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopaedics, Bangalore