Dental problems and toothache can be debilitating and excruciating. We rely on our mouths for essential functions such as eating and drinking. One of the most common dental complaints is tooth decay and the various conditions it can cause when in an advanced stage. A good oral hygiene routine is paramount to maintaining healthy teeth and gums, and it is important to choose products containing fluoride to strengthen the enamel and protect it against erosion.
Erosion happens when sugars interact with plaque on the teeth to form an acidic film which then interferes with the enamel coating. This can be prevented in several ways such as reducing your sugar intake and brushing regularly, though if you’re at risk of severe tooth decay which could lead to excruciating pain, a doctor will prescribe a fluoride-rich toothpaste to be used after every meal.
“Tooth decay and other oral complaints are usually diagnosed and dealt with by a dentist, but in some cases, doctors can prescribe Duraphat – a fluroride-rich toothpaste to help strengthen enamel. The best way of combating tooth decay, though, is a top-notch oral hygiene routine which includes brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, and making sure to floss and use interdental brushes for the hard-to-reach places”.
What are caused by Dental Problems?
Dental problems can significantly disrupt your day to day life. We use our mouths for a whole range of functions, and any pain or discomfort can interfere with the simplest of tasks such as drinking a glass of water.
Many painful dental problems can be nipped in the bud as long as they’re caught early, for example, noticing tooth decay at an early stage can halt the condition from worsening.
- Plaque: a soft, invisible film, full of bacteria that constantly forms on our teeth
- Enamel: the hard outer layer of the tooth, thought to be harder than bone
- Pulp: the soft centre of the tooth which contains blood vessels and nerves.
Plaque is constantly forming on our teeth, but with good oral hygiene, it can be brushed away without complications. However, when plaque is allowed to build up, the bacteria in it has the opportunity to react with sugars and turn into an acidic substance.
Plaque that hasn’t been adequately removed can harden and turn to tartar after some time, which is much more difficult to remove and becomes more visible than normal plaque. It is important to practice good oral hygiene to prevent dental problems such as tooth decay.
What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay happens when the enamel coating of the teeth erodes due to acid. This acid forms when the bacteria in plaque comes into contact with sugars. Luckily, enamel doesn’t contain any nerves or blood vessels that can receive pain signals, but if tooth decay isn’t caught early on, it can progress through to the pulp which can cause excruciating pain. However, early tooth decay doesn’t often cause any symptoms, so it may be more advanced by the time you notice what’s happening, though even if you have a cavity, this is much easier to treat than more serious decay.
Plaque build-up can also lead to irritated gums, causing them to become swollen and sore, and they may bleed when you brush your teeth. These are symptoms of gum disease, another very common dental complaint amongst adults. In the worst cases, periodontis can begin, and your gums may recede to a point where you start losing teeth.
What causes tooth decay?
Simply speaking, tooth decay is caused by plaque interacting with sugars found in foods and drinks. You don’t have to cut sugary snacks out completely to avoid tooth decay, but you will benefit from minimising your daily sugar intake and maintaining a good oral hygiene routine.
In some cases, tooth decay can have other contributing factors, for instance, someone suffering with acid reflux is more prone to tooth decay due to the stomach acid making its way into the mouth and contributing to erosion. The same can be said for people who are frequently vomiting for the same reason. A dry mouth can also be a contributing factor of tooth decay, as saliva helps to wash away debris left by food and drink.
How can I prevent tooth decay?
Luckily, tooth decay is very preventable when you adopt a strict oral hygiene routine. Making sure you follow our “top teeth tips” will reduce your risk of dental problems relating to plaque:
- Brush your teeth twice a day, with one being before you go to bed
- Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride
- Don’t stop at brushing; use floss and interdental brushes to get to the places that a brush can’t reach. Plaque cells are much smaller than the bristles on a toothbrush so you need to cover all bases to make sure your teeth are healthy
- Limit your intake of sugary foods. An excessive amount of sweet treats isn’t only bad news for your waistline but for your teeth too.
- Use disclosing tablets to see where there are traces of plaque that haven’t been brushed away yet.
- Keep your mouth lubricated by drinking plenty of water.
Can tooth decay be treated once it’s started?
As long as the damage isn’t extensive, high-fluoride toothpaste can help to repair tooth decay. This can be requested online at Doctor4U subject to doctor approval.
The high-flouride paste is to be used 3 times a day, once after every meal, taking care not to swallow any.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that has several health benefits and is added to many water supplies in the UK. Fluoride helps to strengthen enamel and make it more resistant to acid attacks from bacteria and sugars.
Duraphat is an example of high-flouride toothpaste. It contains much higher levels of the mineral than dental products on general sale, and it can only be prescribed by a doctor. It is given to people who are considered to be at high risk of severe tooth decay and if used before much damage has occurred, can help to reverse the effects of tooth decay. Due to the amount of fluoride in the product, it is recommended to avoid other sources of it such as mouthwashes, and to drink bottled water during your treatment due to lower flouride levels than is found in tap water.