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Tooth Decay/ Cavity

We have a tendency to take our teeth for granted. Most of us live in an illusion that whatever we do or however we abuse our teeth, nothing grave would ever happen. These same beliefs are passed on to our children. These beliefs were fine in the olden days when there were no chocolates, no sticky foods, and no pressure cookers. The type of food people ate were mostly coarse in nature and raw. To enjoy the modern treats that tickle your tongue, you have to learn to maintain and protect our teeth by modern methods. See the Cariogram picture below.

caries.gif (3261 bytes) White color represents Sugar and Red is Bacteria.

One of the most common problems with teeth is the development of cavities. Tooth decay or cavities were considered disease of children, but today we find many adults also getting them frequently. The outermost white covering of a tooth is Enamel, this white cover is hard and can withstand years of wear and tear. But it can not withstand acids. When foods that are rich in carbohydrates and starch remain on teeth, they are acted upon by bacteria present in the saliva, leading to the production of acids and formation of cavities.

A combination of three factors is necessary for the formation of cavities. Black colour represents the host resistance or the resistance of the individual. The White represents the sugar or sweets or like substances. The Red represents the Bacteria. Various combinations of these three factors decide whether a person will get cavities or not. For example- if your resistance is low you can increase it by application of fluorides, you can use specific mouth washes to reduce the bacteria or you can cut down on your sugar intake- and you will not get cavities.

Most people get cavities, go to the dentist, get them filled, again get a cavity, get it filled. Unless you deal with- why cavity is forming in my mouth, you will not get rid of this problem. It is the responsibility of your dentist to ascertain the cause of cavity formation and counsel you accordingly so that patient will not get cavities in future, merely "filling the cavity" is not the right approach, in fact it is most unscientific.

Use of fluorides has been certified world wide as being effective against cavities. In America most cities have fluoridated drinking water. In India we must use fluoride tooth paste if we have tendency to get more cavities (children below 7 years are not to use fluoride toothpaste). Some areas in India already have a high fluoride content in ground water; people living in those areas do not need to use fluoride in any other form. In European countries fluoride is available in form of tablets, in milk, salt etc. Unfortunately Indian Govt. has not taken any initiative in this area.

Most cavities start from the chewing surfaces, though in older individuals cavities form at the tooth contact points also. Chewing surfaces of teeth contain minute grooves or fissures. These fissures act as the storehouse for food accumulation and acid formation. It is easily preventable by placing "Fissure Sealants". Ask your dentist to place fissure sealant in your child’s molar teeth and they will be protected for a very long time from any cavities. Prevention is your best bet. And of course in earlier article we have already discussed the importance and timings of tooth brushing. You must keep in mind that neglect and delay in dental treatment lead to more pain and high cost.

Eating habits can play havoc with your teeth. If your have tendency to get more cavities, avoid in between the meal, snacks and sweets. If your child loves sweets and chocolates very much, give him just before his meals. This has two benefits- one, the sweets are washed off by eating food-avoiding cavities and secondly, your child eats well. Giving chocolates at odd times gives high calories to the child and kills his appetite. So next time you hold out a chocolate to your friend’s or your own child-think, what it can do to harm him.

So keep these facts in mind and you will lead a happy life free of cavities.