Sometimes, the most obvious symptoms of tooth decay may not be apparent. You might expect to notice major discolorations on the surface of your teeth or very apparent tooth pain.
Toothaches and certain forms of pain coming from your mouth may be early warning signs of tooth decay. However, this is not always the case. There are other factors to look out for. But first, it is crucial to understand what causes tooth decay itself.
What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay or a cavity is a dental condition that occurs when food and bacteria build up on your teeth to form plaque. The bacteria in plaque break down sugars in food substances that form plaque creating acids that attack and erode the enamel on the surface of the teeth.
This condition does not occur overnight, but it can be prevented if you can detect the warning signs at a very early stage. Read on to discover the causes and signs of tooth decay.
Causes of Tooth Decay
Globally, over 2.3 billion people have one or more forms of tooth decay. Also, 26% of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 years have untreated tooth decay. Tooth decay can be easily prevented if you understand the causes and risk factors for tooth decay. Here are the common causes of tooth decay.
Sugary drinks and starchy food substances
Sugars have a direct correlation to tooth decay. When sugars in soda and snacks interact with bacteria in your mouth, they produce acids that erode the enamel on the surface of your teeth. This doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a gradual process of repeated cycles of acid attacks that causes progressive mineral loss on the surface of the teeth enamel which eventually leads to cavities or tooth decay.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), limiting free sugar intake to less than 10%, or even further to less than 5%, minimizes the risk of tooth decay throughout a person’s life course.
Hence, sugar-sweetened drinks are a major factor in tooth decay. Similarly, starchy foods are sticky. When they adhere to the surface of the enamel, they break down to form free sugars which when broken down produce acids that lead to tooth decay.
Poor oral hygiene
Poor dental care can lead to unexpected dental consequences including tooth decay. The earlier you learn good dental habits, the less your chances of developing tooth decay. Brush with fluoride toothpaste, never go to bed without brushing your teeth, and regularly floss between your teeth at least once per day. Never overlook the role of flossing in oral health; treat flossing as important as tooth brushing.
Additionally, use mouthwash to keep your mouth healthy, keep your mouth hydrated, and eat dental healthy fruits and food substances.
Alcohol has a natural tendency to cause mouth dehydration by limiting the action of the salivary glands and decreasing saliva production in the mouth. This gives room for mouth bacteria to act on food substances and convert sugars into acids which wear out the tooth enamel. Also, alcohol plays a role in sugar metabolism. That is, alcohol converts sugars into acids which can attack the surface of teeth and cause tooth decay.
Issues with dry mouth
A dry mouth gives room for sticky food substances and plaques to remain on the surface of the teeth. Additionally, a well-hydrated mouth readily washes away bacteria and prevents their action from converting sugars to acids. A dry mouth allows for plaque buildup and gives room for bacteria to stay and adhere to food substances and convert them into acids which breaks down the enamel and leads to tooth decay.
Top Signs of Tooth Decay
Understanding the early warning signs of tooth decay will help prevent it. Here are the signs of tooth decay you should watch out for:
Bad taste in the mouth
This may not be easily noticeable since sometimes it is possible to unexpectedly consume bad-tasting food products. But if you notice a bad taste in your mouth after you have enjoyed your meal and even after you have brushed and flossed properly, that may be a warning sign of tooth decay.
When dental bacteria act on food substances, they produce sulfur which is a major factor contributing to the foul smells that lead to a bad taste in the mouth. This is indicative of prolonged poor oral hygiene which might lead to tooth decay.
When your gums bleed easily, it can be an early sign of tooth decay. This is usually a result of plaque buildup along the gumline. This causes your gums to get easily irritated, swollen, and eventually bleed easily when bacteria break down the plaques around the gum line. Bleeding gums are not just a sign of periodontal diseases, but evidence of poor dental habits which could eventually lead to cavities.
Abnormal tooth sensitivity
There are many reasons for developing sensitive teeth. It may be a result of untreated gum infection, teeth grinding, acidic foods, and more.
However, if you abnormally feel tenderness or pain when you eat or drink warm or cold water then you may likely be at risk of developing tooth decay. This sort of tenderness or pain may also be noticed when you eat something sweet.
Tooth decay is a risk factor for serious health problems, including but not limited to brain and heart infections. Preventing cavities and treating tooth decay is a lifelong commitment. Schedule an appointment with us at Fine Arts Dentistry where we help our patients achieve great smiles by treating tooth decay in Matthews, NC.