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What is the Real Cause of Tooth Decay

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Have you ever wondered what really causes decay and why some people are affected more than others? The popular explanation is lack of oral hygiene, but there’s more to it than inadequate cleaning technique at home.

Two types of tissues are affected by dental decay, and they are the enamel and the dentin. During the youth only the enamel is influenced by dental caries. As we age, the gums begin to recede and expose the dentin of the roots. The patients often complain of sensitivity and bad breath as well as the gum line decay. It is important to protect the enamel in the first place to prevent gingival recession later on.

In healthy individuals, the salivary glands produce enough saliva to wash away the cariogenic food debris. With proper care, this oral status can be maintained for many years without the need for dental intervention other than regular preventive appointments. Lack of this valuable fluid leads to decay, dry mouth (xerostomia) and gum disease. Common cause for slow production of saliva include regular intake of certain medications, recreational drug use and other health issues. The saliva also plays a major role in body’s immune response to the oral bacteria. This condition is frequently dismissed by patients, but it can be easily diagnosed and approached by the dentist who can treat it with appropriate dental therapy.

One example of health condition that may hinder the production of saliva is cancer of the head or neck areas. The radiation treatment can quickly result in dry mouth and cause rampant caries. Other examples include the diabetes or renal diseases that are treated with certain medications that cause xerostomia. In case of serious health conditions, the dentist always consults with the patient’s primary physician and creates a treatment plan to correct the problem.

Additionally, the hard enamel should be protected by its continuous contact with fluoride. Research shows that daily brushing with the fluoridated toothpaste decreases the risk of cavities by 50 percent. Fluoride can also be implemented during the prophylactic cleanings with the dental hygienist or at home with gels, antiseptic rinses and other similar products. The patients are educated about gentle methods of toothbrushing to protect the dentin from premature exposure. If the roots are exposed, they can be still treated with applications of fluoride and anti-sensitivity topical medications.

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