Monday March 17 2014

Dental caries: your teeth are at risk

Cutting down on the intake of sugary foods such

Cutting down on the intake of sugary foods such as cakes can help reduce cavities. PHOTO by Michael Kakumirizi 

By Richard Kabanda

Commonly known as tooth decay, dental caries occur when specific types of bacteria produce acid that destroys the tooth enamel and the layer under it. Many different types of bacteria normally live in our mouth, and 30 minutes after eating food, they build up on the teeth in a sticky film called plaque. This plaque forms most easily in certain places such as:
•Cracks, pits or grooves in the back teeth
•Between teeth
•Around dental fillings or bridgework
•Near the gum line

Some of the plaque bacteria turn sugar and carbohydrates (starches) in the foods we eat into acids. The acids dissolve minerals in the hard enamel that covers the tooth’s crown (the part you can see). The enamel then develops pits which are usually too small to see at first, but they get larger over time. The enamel develops holes which are usually too small to see at first, but they get larger over time.

Acid can also seep through the holes, to the softer dentin layer, the main body of the tooth. As the dentin breaks down, the enamel over it collapses, forming a cavity.

Early caries may not have any symptoms. Later, when the decay has eaten through the enamel, the teeth may be sensitive to sweet, hot or cold foods or drinks. In worse conditions, you will start feeling the pain.

In order to reduce cavities in your teeth, you will need to practice:
•Regular brushing of teeth.
•Avoid snacking between meals.
•Flossing of teeth by applying the recommended techniques from your dentist.
•Reducing on taking of sugary foods.
•Having regular dental check-ups.
•Having your teeth professionally cleaned every after six months.
•Using fluoridated water or other products (for those whose water is tested not to have ).

Tooth decay can be stopped, or even reversed, in its early stages. Fluorides and other prevention methods can help a tooth in early stages of decay to repair itself. your dentist can explain to you the entire process.
Once caries get worse and there is a break in the enamel, only the dentist can repair the tooth. The standard treatment for a cavity is to fill the tooth with the appropriate filling material.
However, there are times when your teeth cannot be filled. This happens when decay has reached the pulp. In this case, your dentist can save it by doing a root canal treatment.

The writer is a dentist