Bank Street Dentistry

Dental Terms

Dental Terms

Understanding and Preventing Tooth Decay in Ottawa

Tooth decay begins when bacteria in your mouth produce acids that attack the tooth's surface, known as enamel. This process can result in the formation of a small hole in the tooth, known as a cavity. If left untreated, tooth decay can lead to pain, infection, and even tooth loss.

Tooth decay can affect individuals of all ages, from childhood through the senior years. Young children are particularly at risk for "early childhood caries," often referred to as baby bottle tooth decay. This severe form of tooth decay typically starts in the baby's front teeth and can extend to the back teeth.

Older adults may also be susceptible to tooth decay, especially if they have receding gums. This recession can expose the root surfaces of the teeth to decay-causing bacteria in the mouth.

Causes of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in the mouth come into contact with sugars and starches from foods and drinks, leading to the production of acid. This acid can attack the enamel of the tooth, causing it to lose minerals.

When a tooth is repeatedly exposed to acid, such as through frequent consumption of sugary and starchy foods and drinks, the enamel continues to lose minerals. This may result in the appearance of a white spot where minerals have been lost, indicating early decay.

Tooth decay can be halted or reversed at this stage. Enamel has the ability to repair itself by utilizing minerals from saliva and fluoride from toothpaste or fluoride applications by a dentist or dental hygienist. However, if more minerals are lost than can be restored, the enamel weakens and eventually breaks down, leading to the formation of a cavity.

Symptoms of Tooth Decay

In the early stages of tooth decay, there may not be any noticeable symptoms.

As tooth decay progresses, it can cause toothache (tooth pain) or sensitivity to sweet, hot, or cold foods and drinks. If the tooth becomes infected, it may lead to the development of an abscess, a pocket of pus, resulting in pain, facial swelling, and fever.

Diagnosis of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay can be identified during a routine dental check-up. Signs of tooth decay include white, brown, or black staining on the tooth. If the decay has advanced, it may lead to the formation of a cavity. The dentist can also check for areas that feel soft or sticky on the tooth's surface or may use X-rays to detect decay.

Treatment of Tooth Decay

If tooth decay is detected in its early stages, before the formation of a cavity, the dentist can apply fluoride to reverse the decay.

Cavities are commonly treated by filling them. The dentist removes the decayed tooth tissue and then restores the tooth by filling it with a suitable filling material.

Helpful Tips for Preventing Tooth Decay

  • Use fluoride, a mineral that can prevent the progression of tooth decay and even reverse early decay. You can obtain fluoride by:
    • Brushing with fluoride toothpaste.
    • Consuming tap water that contains fluoride.
    • Using fluoride mouth rinse.
  • Establish a good oral hygiene routine, including brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and regularly cleaning between your teeth with floss or another interdental cleaner.
  • Make wise food choices by limiting sugary beverages and foods high in sugars and starches. Opt for nutritious and balanced meals and reduce snacking.
  • Avoid using tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco. If you currently use tobacco, consider quitting.
  • Visit a dentist for regular check-ups and professional cleanings.

Contact Bank Street Dentistry at 613-241-1010 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Nasrin Saba. Our practice is located at 1189 Bank Street in Ottawa, ON, and we are committed to your dental health.

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