Tooth decay is an infectious disease that causes damage to the structure of the teeth. The most notable consequences of dental caries are cavities. Left untreated caries can lead to pain and tooth loss, and can even lead to death (very rare). Tooth decay is much more of an inconvenience than drilling and filling. This condition has the potential to change a person’s speech, diet, quality of life and well-being. In this article, you will learn about this disease, which is one of the oldest in the world.
A worldwide problem, it is painful, costly and (fortunately) preventable
From cavities to cancer. Oral problems cause pain and disability for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. In America, around 40 million individuals are affected by tooth decay. Dental decay can be considered a global epidemic, mostly encountered in young children and older people. This disease begins early and today is affecting one forth of children within the age 2 and 5 and more than half for ages 12 to 15. The children that take the hardest hit are the ones that come from a low-income family (almost two-thirds of those ages 6 to 19).
Tooth decay is also an issue for US adults. More than 90% of people over 40 years old are affected by it, and 25% of people over 60 have lost all their teeth. Tooth decay affects self-esteem and also generates nutrition problems by limiting all sorts of foods that are beneficial to the body.
The new way of looking at tooth decay
People should consider the mouth as an ecosystem where organisms interact continually with all the other elements in the environment (the mouth). Teeth have an outer coating called the enamel which protects the soft part called dentin. If the enamel layer is penetrated, then the dentin is exposed creating a sense of sensitivity and pain. The enamel is a crystalline in structure and is highly mineralized, being composed mainly of phosphate and calcium.
The sugars (from the foods) you consume are transformed into acids which in turn demineralize the enamel. Saliva is the main weapon against this demineralization process. Saliva helps the enamel layer with the remineralization layer. If you are not adequately hydrated (with water), the saliva level lowers, and the remineralization is not as efficient.
The oral environment is full of bacteria. In a single mouth, you can find more bacteria than there are and were people on Planet Earth. Some of this bacteria do not harm the mouth, but some of them cause tooth decay.
In the second part of the article, you will understand the tooth decay process and how you can stop it early in it’s tracks.