What is Tooth Decay?
If you have an unexplained dark spot on your teeth, you feel a hole or a pit in your tooth when you run your tongue over it, or you have a toothache, then there is a very good chance that you are suffering from tooth decay. Also known as cavities or dental caries, tooth decay occurs when your enamel becomes compromised and exposed to bacteria. We here at Puget Sound Pediatric Dentistry see tooth decay at our office every single day and would like to teach all of our patients about this common disease and how to prevent and treat it!
Do I Have Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is extremely common, but that does not mean that you should have to get it, too! If you have a hole in your tooth, then you likely have tooth decay. Tooth decay forms when bacteria can break through your dental enamel and attack the softer inner portions of your tooth (the dentin and the pulp). Having a cavity can be quite painful, but in its early stages, you may not even know you have one. Symptoms of tooth decay include dark spots on your tooth, a hole that you can feel, a toothache, pain when biting or chewing, sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks, and pain when you eat foods with sugar in them.
While sugar is often to blame for tooth decay, it's just one of the things that can make it happen. The actual cause of tooth decay is bacteria. Your mouth is full of germs and eating sugar can encourage those germs to grow and reproduce. If you have ever noticed a fuzzy, scummy feeling on your teeth at the end of the day, then you have felt something called plaque. Plaque is a sticky residue that is made up of the bacteria in your mouth. If you do not make sure you remove that plaque often, the germs in the plaque can give off toxins and acids that can start to eat at your dental enamel. That is how a cavity starts to form.
You can prevent this from happening by taking good care of your teeth. You need to brush your teeth twice a day and floss once per day. Brush morning and night using a pea-sized dollop of toothpaste with fluoride in it. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush your teeth at a 45-degree angle for two minutes each time. You need to floss either morning or evening. Use an 18-inch length of dental floss and make sure you work it between your teeth and up underneath your gumline. Use a fresh section of floss per tooth to prevent spreading germs around. You can also use antibacterial mouthwash to help kill any remaining germs in your mouth.
In addition to brushing and flossing and using mouthwash, you also need to get regular checkups at our office to help prevent cavities from forming. We advise that all of our patients come in every six months for an exam and a cleaning. If it has been longer than six months since your last checkup, please give us here at Puget Sound Pediatric Dentistry a call today at 360-659-8100, 360-863-8700, 425-367-4149, 360-339-8000 to schedule your appointment!