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Home :: Tooth Decay

Tooth Decay - Causes And Treatment

Alternative names :- Dental Caries, Dental Cavities

Tooth decay is the gradual breakdown of the tooth, beginning with the enamel surface and eventually progressing to the inner pulp.

Tooth decay rivals the common cold as the most prevalent human disorder. It is not a natural process, as many people believe, but a bacterial disease. This bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause other problems in the body. Bacteria in the mouth combine with mucus and food debris to create a sticky mass called plaque that sticks to the surfaces of the teeth. The bacteria in the plaque feed on ingested sugars and produce an acid that leaches calcium and phosphate from the teeth.

Gradually, if the sticky deposits are not removed, the teeth erode-first the enamel (the outer layer) and then the dentin (the body of the tooth). If unchecked, decay can progress even further, into the pulp that contains the nerve in the center of the tooth, resulting in a toothache. Infection may result, leaving the tooth vulnerable to abscess.

Tooth decay depends on three factors: the presence of bacteria, the availability of sugars for the bacteria to feed on, and the vulnerability of tooth enamel. Poor nutrition and poor oral hygiene are probably the main factors behind most cavities. In particular, people who consume large quantities of refined carbohydrates-especially sticky-textured foods that cling to tooth surfaces-or who snack frequently without cleaning their teeth afterwards are much more likely to have a problem with tooth decay. There are also some people who, for reasons not yet understood, seem to have unusually acidic saliva and/or higher than normal levels of bacteria present in their mouths, and they too are more prone to tooth decay.

Tooth decay normally causes no symptoms until it is rather far advanced. Then the tooth may become sensitive to heat, cold, and the consumption of sugar. In later stages, a toothache may occur.

Tooth decay treatment

Suggested dosage
Vitamin C with bioflavonoids 3,000 mg daily
in divided doses.
Protects against infection and inflammation. Do not use a chewable form, as this may erode tooth enamel
Zinc 30 mg daily. Do not exceed a total of 100 mg daily from all supplements. Boosts immune function. Use zinc gluconate or OptiZinc for best absorption.
Vitamin K As directed on label. May aid in preventing tooth decay.
Vitamin E 600 IU daily. Promotes healing.
  • Calendula, chamomile, peppermint, and yarrow are natural anti-inflammatories.
  • Clove oil is helpful for toothache pain. Apply 1 or 2 drops to the affected tooth with a cotton swab as needed. If you find the clove oil too strong, dilute it with olive oil.
  • Alcohol-free goldenseal extract can be used as an anti­bacterial mouthwash. If inflammation is present, put a few drops of goldenseal extract on a piece of sterile cotton and press against the gum by the affected tooth, pushing in place tightly, at bedtime. Leave the cotton in place over­night. Do this for three consecutive nights to destroy bacteria and reduce inflammation.
  • Thyme is a natural antiseptic that reduces the level of bacteria in the mouth.
  • Kava kava, St. John's wort, white willow bark, and wintergreen have analgesic properties. White willow bark is also an anti-inflammatory.
  • Sage is good for its anti-inflammatory properties. Bring to a boil 2 tablespoons of dried, crushed sage leaves in 1 cup of water. Steep for 20 minutes and strain. Cool to a comfortable temperature and use the mixture to rinse your mouth several times daily.
  • Eat plenty of raw fruits and vegetables. These contain minerals that help to keep the saliva from becoming too acidic.

Considerations and prevention tips

  • Do not smoke.
  • Do not use chewable vitamin C supplements, which can erode tooth enamel. Tablets or powders designed for swallowing do not pose this danger.
  • Avoid all refined sugars.
  • Avoid carbonated soft drinks. These are high in phosphates, which promote the loss of calcium from the tooth enamel.
  • At present, the only known way to stop tooth decay once it has started is to remove the decayed area and cover it with some type of filling. Many different materials are used to fill cavities. The most common is the "silver" amalgam filling. Amalgam formulas vary, but virtually all contain about 50 percent mercury, a toxic heavy metal. There are other filling choices, however, including gold and natural-looking ceramic-based materials called composites. You may wish to discuss concerns about filling materials with your dentist before treatment.
  • Researchers are looking into the possibility of adding cranberry extract to toothpaste and/ or mouthwash. Evidence suggests that a compound present in cranberries may reduce plaque formation.

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