Patient Education

Tooth Decay

What is restorative dentistry and why do teeth need restoration?

Restorative dentistry involves the treatment and restoration of the teeth. The treatments range from a simple filling to more extensive restorations.


One of the most common of all disorders, second only to the common cold, is dental caries or tooth decay. Here the tooth rots or decomposes resulting in the formation of a cavity in the tooth.


What causes tooth decay or dental caries?

The main factor that causes this is 'dental plaque', a thick sticky substance that collects on the teeth. Made up of food deposits and salivary products, it houses a large amount of bacteria.


If food, especially those containing sugar and starch is left in the mouth, bacteria acts on it, breaking it down into acids. The acids then soften and dissolve the minerals of the tooth producing microscopic cavities in the tooth. Over time, with repeated acid attacks, enough mineral is dissolved causing a chalky white spot, which is the first visible sign of decay.


How does dental caries result in cavities?

As further attacks of acid occur, the microscopic cavities join together to produce a visible cavity or hole within the tooth. This hole provides a well-protected nesting place for more plaque and food, which furthers the spread of decay. How is plaque formed?


Sticky foods like sweets, candies, chocolates, cookies, wafers/crisps and peanut butter sandwiches, are more harmful than non-sticky foods because they remain on the teeth longer thus subjecting the tooth to constant acid attacks. Frequent snacking also increases the time acids are in contact with the tooth.


Why does a decayed tooth need treatment?

If left untreated a small hole or cavity would continue to grow until it becomes so large that bacteria might reach the pulp in the tooth, causing a toothache and eventually an infection. The goal of treatment is to preserve the remaining healthy tooth and prevent complications.


How would I know that I have a cavity?

he earliest symptom is the sensitivity to hot or cold or sweet food or drinks. Once a hole has formed, stuck food will indicate the presence of a cavity. If you allow the cavity to spread visible pits and holes will be seen.


Occasionally a cavity spreads very slowly without any symptoms or indication until suddenly it is very deep and has spread to the deeper parts of the tooth even having affected the nerve. In such situations a sudden sharp and throbbing pain is felt. To avoid this regular check ups are a must.


What precautions can I take to avoid getting cavities?

Good oral hygiene consisting of personal care (proper brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least daily) and professional care (regular dental examination and cleaning, at least once a year) is the primary prevention against dental caries.


What kind of diet control should I observe?

Minimize snacking, as it creates a constant supply of acid in the mouth. Eat chewy, sticky foods (such as dried fruit or candy) as part of your meal rather than as a snack. If possible, brush your teeth or rinse with water after eating these foods. Avoid constantly sipping sugary drinks or frequently sucking on candies and mints.