Tooth decay is one of the most common causes of tooth pain. While it’s most common in children, tooth decay can occur at any age. However, there are a number of ways to prevent tooth decay and improve oral health.
What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay is simply the destruction of a tooth’s enamel, or the hard, outer layer of the tooth. Tooth decay occurs when plaque, or a buildup of bad bacteria, is not removed from the surface of the teeth; when plaque is not removed through regular brushing and flossing it begins to attack and break down enamel, leading to tooth decay.
Stages of tooth decay
There are six stages of tooth decay:
1. White spots: White spots form on the teeth as a build up of plaque begins to cause loss of calcium. At this stage tooth decay is sometimes reversible using proper brushing techniques and fluoridated toothpaste.
2. Enamel decay: In the second stage of tooth decay, the enamel begins to break down under the tooth’s surface; the tooth’s natural remineralization process is unable to repair the progressing decay.
3. Dentin decay: When left untreated, decay goes through the enamel to the dentin, or the layer of the tooth between the enamel and the pulp. Sharp pain may occur as decay reaches the dentin, and a filling is often required to repair the damage.
4. Involvement of pulp: The center of the tooth is referred to as the pulp; when the pulp becomes infected, the body’s response to the bacteria results in a near-constant toothache. Root canal therapy is the most common form of treatment for this stage of tooth decay.
5. Abscess formation: Abscess formation is the most painful stage of tooth decay. As the infection reaches the root tip of the tooth, the surrounding bone and tissue are also at increased risk of infection; additional oral surgery is often required.
6. Tooth loss: If tooth decay is left totally untreated, the tooth will often be lost and need to be extracted.
Preventing tooth decay
There are a number of simple steps to help prevent tooth decay. Here are a few:
- Brush and floss daily: Brush twice daily and floss at least once per day to remove plaque and bad bacteria from the mouth.
- Regularly visit a dentist: The American Dental Association recommends adults visit a dentist at least once per year; those with risk factors for periodontal disease should schedule an increase in the frequency of their visits.
- Eat a well-balanced diet: Studies have shown that eating a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats – and minimal added sugars – can help improve oral health and reduce tooth decay.
- Use products containing xylitol: Xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar substitute, has been clinically proven to prevent tooth decay by stopping the growth of bad bacteria in the mouth. At 4ever Mints, all of our products contain decay-preventing xylitol along with other natural ingredients, helping you improve your oral health while having fresh breath that lasts for hours.