The term oral health includes the overall health of your teeth, gums and mouth.
It is a state of being free from chronic mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral sores, birth defects such as cleft lip and palate, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay and tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that lead to oral cavity. Unhealthy diets, tobacco use, intake of alcohol, smoking and poor oral hygiene affect our oral health.
The health of your gums, teeth and mouth are very important to maintain overall health. Research reveals the definite connection between poor oral health and systemic disease such as diabetes in people of all ages and respiratory diseases especially among aged people. New research is now indicating the probable connections between oral health and other systemic conditions such as heart disease and premature birth of low weight babies. While researchers are still trying to find the links between oral health and general health, oral disease itself can result in tooth ache, tooth loss and bad breath. So give yourself some time to check if there is any sign of infection and sore inside your mouth. Check your-
- Tongue (top and bottom)
- Roof of the mouth
Healthy teeth and mouth are about more than just a beautiful smile. It is all about your overall health. Therefore, maintaining good oral health should be one of your priorities throughout a lifetime.
‘Cavity’– the very word shatters us for a moment. A cavity is a hole that becomes larger and even deeper by time. Cavities are also termed as ‘dental caries’. A person having a cavity should repair it without making delay. Cavities occur due to tooth decay which is a damage of tooth structure. Tooth decay can have adverse effect on the enamel (the outer coating of the tooth), cementum (calcified substance covering the root of a tooth) and the dentin (the inner layer of the tooth).
Who Gets Cavities?
Many people have a misconception that cavities only affect children, but changes that happen with aging make cavities a real; matter of concern for adult. Recession of the gums (a downward depression of gum tissue from the teeth), along with an increased infection of gingivitis (gum disease), expose tooth roots to plaque, a soft, sticky, colorless deposit forming on our teeth. Moreover, cravings for sugary food in pregnant women can make them more susceptible to developing cavities.
Decay around the edges of fillings is also a common symptom in older adults. Because many older adults could not have the benefits of fluoride and modern preventive dental care at their growing stage and they often have a number of dental fillings. Gradually, these fillings may deteriorate and can fracture. This allows bacteria to gather in the small crevices causing tooth decay.
Tooth decay is one of the most widespread of all disorders and second only to the common cold. It generally happens in kids and young adults but it can affect any person. Remember, cavity is a common reason behind tooth loss in younger people.
Tooth decay takes place if foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) for example, breads, cereals, milk, soda, fruits, cakes, or candy are left on the teeth. Now Bacteria living in the mouth digest these foods and produce acids out of these left over foods. This acid affects tooth enamel dissolving the enamel surface of the teeth, creates hole in the teeth known as cavities or caries and thus makes the tooth sensitive. In this way the bacteria, acid, food debris, and saliva all contribute well to develop plaque that clings to the teeth. Unless the plaque is not removed from the teeth it mineralizes into tartar. This detrimental combination of plaque and tartar irritates the gums causing gingivitis and finally periodontitis.
Plaque starts developing on teeth within 20 minutes after eating (the time when most bacterial activity occurs). If this plaque is left without removing it thoroughly and routinely, it will not only cause tooth decay but will also make it flourish.
Cavities are usually painless if they do not grow very large and tell upon nerves or cause a tooth fracture. If cavities are left untreated, a tooth abscess can also develop. Be careful as untreated tooth decay also affects the internal structure of the tooth (pulp) and ultimately results in the loss of the tooth.
When the cavity is in its neo stage there may be no symptoms at all. The symptoms of cavities depend on the extent and location of the cavity. If symptoms occur, they may include:
- Tooth pain or achy feeling (particularly after having sweet, hot, or cold foods and drinks)
- Visible pits or holes in the teeth
Most cavities are detected in the early stages during routine checkups.
- The surface of the tooth may appear soft on probing with a sharp instrument.
- Pain may not be present until the tooth decay becomes too severe.
- Dental x-rays may make some cavities visible if not detectable to the eye.
Treatments for cavities
Treatment can help prevent tooth damage from developing cavities.
Treatment may involve:
- Root canals
Dentists usually fill teeth by removing the decayed tooth substance using a drill and replacing it with silver alloy or gold or porcelain or composite resin. Porcelain and composite resin resemble the natural tooth appearance, and is generally preferred to fill front teeth. Many dentists consider silver amalgam (alloy) and gold to be stronger, and often use to fill back teeth. The use of high strength composite resin in the back teeth as well is now in vogue.
Crowns or “caps” are used if the nature of tooth decay is very serious and there is limited tooth structure, which may result in weakened teeth. Large fillings and weak teeth raise the possibility of the tooth breaking. So, the decayed or weakened area is removed and repaired and a crown is placed over the remaining tooth. These crowns are generally made of gold, porcelain, or porcelain attached to metal.
A root canal is recommended to those whose nerve in a tooth dies from decay or damage. In this treatment, the center of the tooth along with the nerve and blood vessel tissue (pulp) is removed together with decayed portions of the tooth. After that the roots are filled with a sealing material and sometimes a crown may be fitted over the tooth if required.
- Discomfort or pain
- Fractured tooth
- Inability to bite down on tooth
- Tooth abscess
- Tooth sensitivity
How to prevent cavities
Oral hygiene is essential to prevent cavities. Regular professional cleaning (every 6 months), brushing at least twice a day, and daily flossing fall in the category of oral hygiene.
X-rays may be done yearly to discover possible development of cavity in high risk areas of the mouth.
The best way to have Chewy, sticky foods (such as dried fruit or candy) is as part of a meal rather than as a snack. It is beneficial to brush the teeth or rinse the mouth very well with water after eating these sticky foods.
Minimize your daily intake of snack as it constantly supplies acid in the mouth.
Try to avoid continuous sipping of sugary drinks or frequent sucking on candy and mints.
Dental sealants (thin plastic-like coating applied to the chewing surfaces of the molars) are capable of preventing some cavities. This coating prevents the growth of plaque in the deep grooves on these weak surfaces of tooth. Dentists prefer to apply Sealants on the teeth of children, soon after the molars erupt. Tooth sealants may also be beneficial for the older people.
Fluoride is often suggested to provide protection against dental caries. It has been demonstrated that people who consume fluoride in their drinking water or by fluoride supplements are less prone to dental caries. Fluoride ingested, when the teeth are developing, is included into the structure of the tooth enamel to protect it against the influence of acids.
Topical fluoride is also recommended by the dentists to guard the surface of the teeth. This may consist of a fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash. Many dentists prescribe topical fluoride solutions (applied to a localized area of the teeth) as a part of routine visits.
When toothache troubles you try to avoid hot, cold or sweet drinks. This will prevent pain from pulpitis.
Chewing Cloves or rubbing clove oil on the tooth may give you some relief from toothache. To reduce pain, chew a clove slowly by the aching tooth in order to extract the juice and leave it there for about half an hour. Repeat this for three to four times.
Mixture of crushed Clove and Peanut butter will reduce pain. Apply this mixture to the aching tooth and leave it there for some time to get relief.
Turmeric sticks are also effective for toothache. To use it, burn some turmeric sticks and make a fine powder of these, and apply it to the aching tooth as toothpowder.
Ginger also acts as a pain reliever. Follow the same procedure as the cloves to reduce pain.
Oil of oregano on the affected tooth is also helpful.
Crush a clove of Garlic and mix with a pinch of salt. Apply this mixture on the decaying tooth to relieve you from your pain. It may also prevent you from further decay. Eat a clove of Garlic every morning to prevent tooth decay and to prevent bad breath.
Raw Vegetables and Fruits
Raw fruits and vegetables are effective in the formation of saliva that rinses mouth naturally. They also contain certain enzymes that help scrub your teeth to prevent harmful bacteria.
Intake of the juice of Star fruit twice a day may relieve you from the tooth pain.
Drops of Vanilla extract on the affected tooth are also an effective cure.
Broccoli and dark leafy greens, viz. spinach, contain plenty of calcium which is a dental building block.
Chewing a piece of Onion for 3 to 4 minutes can lessen your pain and destroy the bacteria.
Lime is considered as a good source of vitamin C that prevents tooth decay, bleeding teeth and gums and loss of teeth.
Cheese – the Secret Anti-Cavity Weapon
Yes, cheese is considered to be the anti-cavity weapon. Most hard cheeses have enzymes that combat tooth disease strongly. If you take a sliver or two of hard cheese daily, you’ll strengthen your gums and teeth with microscopic cavity fighters and could save thousands of dollars in dental bills keeping you free from pain and suffering.
Ice as pain reliever
Ice is a conventional relief for toothache. Chew up a piece of ice on the aching side of the mouth. Sometimes in the case of cavity this may aggravate your pain! Rubbing the ice on swelling portion of the gum helps to alleviate the pain as well as swelling.
Prevention is Still King
At first it is essential to prevent plaque. It is useful to avoid hard candies, caramels, refined sugar products, or anything else you might snack on. These provide plaque instant food sources. If you wish to have high sugar foods, eat them with meals and brush directly after each meal or snack prevent the presence of sugar and plaque in your mouth.
Your Major Weapons
In order to fight against cavities, your major weapons are a toothbrush, a roll of floss, and good fluoride toothpaste. Use them frequently, and brush your teeth with up and down and circular motions. Remember to clean your tongue also, because it can be a chief plaque harbor. Don’t neglect to brush your back teeth only because they are hard to reach!
Toothbrushes wear out with time, so it requires frequent replacement. An average toothbrush can last two to four months. But if you’ve recently had a cold, or it seems like the brush isn’t working well, replace it instantly, because brushes can carry germs and transmit a disease to you. The toothbrush having soft bristles and a curved handle is ideal as it allows you to reach hard-to-get areas.
You may also use Listerine antiseptic by gargling it.
The commercials that recommend you to chew a stick of sugarless gum after each meal to decrease plaque buildup are right to a certain extent. Chewing gum containing xylitol can certainly lessen the amount of plaque inside your mouth. But have a look of the ingredients listed on the side of your favorite gum to confirm that your gum contains this important ingredient.