Knowing Tooth Decay and Its Modern Treatments

“Tooth decay, also known as dental cavities, or dental caries, is a disease that is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.” — Michael C. Alfano, Dean of the New York University College of Dentistry.

As warned by the World Health Organization, tooth decay is one of the world’s most prevalent health problems in industrialized and especially in developing countries. An estimate of 90{b8199d4e76d5c4c4a9fa89ec04f495f77a40e6e04d2b7b455e3b26e8fd6a6d2e} people in the United States has at least one cavity. Children and senior citizens are the two groups of people at highest risk.

In children, it usually happens when sugar-laden foods such as candies are frequently left on the teeth. In the mouth, there are bacteria that live in plaque (a sticky, whitish film produced by our saliva) that convert the sugar into acids. These acids eat away the tooth’s protective coating also known as the enamel. Excessive destruction of this outer surface of the tooth results in tooth decay.

What makes adults also prone to being afflicted with tooth decay is when aging causes gums to move back from the teeth. Combined with gum disease, this gum recession exposes the tooth root to plaque. This will cause the breakdown of the tooth root. People who already have a number of dental restorations (fillings and crowns) may also suffer from tooth decay, especially around the teeth’s edges, or margins.

The cost of spoiling your sweet tooth. Tooth decay, particularly in the front teeth, may become an impediment towards achieving a pleasing appearance, thus affecting self-esteem. Cavities can also impact an individual’s emotional and social well being by causing pain and discomfort from toothache. In addition to this, it can also cause some serious health problem like malnutrition by interfering with an individual’s ability to eat certain foods. If tooth decay is not treated early, complication from infection could cause swelling of the face and neck, fever and blood poisoning.

Prevention is a lot less expensive AND less painful than treatment. Although tooth decay remains as one of the most common chronic disease, today many people are in better oral health than before. The consolidated effort of dental associations and many other health organizations in raising oral health consciousness, the support of the government, and cooperation from the public made this improvement attainable. Several community-based programs aimed at solving oral health dilemmas are carried out. These include extending fluoridated water and schools having sealant projects for children. However, these programs cannot reach many remote areas where ethnic minorities are and where many people are living in poverty. Their access to formal education and dental care is very limited. This shows the need for more community-based dental programs to help people take care of their teeth.

The American Association for Dental Research and International Association for Dental Research have long been collaborating to disseminate ways of preventing tooth decay. They educate people of how proper oral hygiene methods of brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, regular dental checkup, sealant treatment, flossing, eating nutritious meals, and limiting in-between meals will always be indispensable.

Dental researchers have recently discovered how the bacteria which attack teeth, stick themselves to the enamel. This new information could bring significant benefits to increase the public’s knowledge on eliminating the harmful effects of the tooth decay-causing bacteria (Streptococcus mutans). Aside from this, they are also in the process of developing vaccines against tooth decay and discovering other new methods on targeting and killing the decay-causing bacteria.

Other tooth decay treatments, i.e., dental implants, Healozone gas blast (blast that triggers the saliva to fix the teeth naturally), and squirting genetically modified bacteria that will not produce the decay acid, are also being developed. The use of fiber optics and fluorescence methodologies is also being considered to possibly detect tooth decay much sooner than x-rays and visual inspections can.

These advancements in treating dental cavities are evidences of the increasing attention to oral care. But relying mainly on these discoveries does not guarantee the complete disappearance of tooth decay from the list of the most common global health problems. Further improvements on tooth decay treatment entails expanded dental care education, early interception of poor oral hygiene habits, greater parental involvement in children’s dental health and appreciating how priceless a confident smile is.


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