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What are dental cavities?

Cavities are lesions on the teeth. To put it in simple terms, they are holes on the teeth. Technically they are known as dental caries.

What is plaque and tartar?

Plaque is a sticky white film that is continuously formed on everybody’s teeth. It consists of food particles, bacteria etc. It is the main cause of all dental diseases. If allowed to remain on teeth, it hardens to form tartar (calculus).

How are cavities formed?

The sugar that we eat gets stuck on the surface of teeth in the form of plaque. There it degenerates by the action of bacteria and in this process acids are released. They attack tooth enamel and make it soft. After many such attacks the enamel completely breaks down and a small cavity is formed. This acts as a focus for food accumulation and a vicious circle is formed. Ultimately it results in a full-fledged cavity.

Why some cavities are is the painless in the initial stages?

Enamel is a non-living tissue. It is the hardest substance in the human body. The tissue inside the enamel is dentin which is living. Therefore, in the initial stages dental caries cause no pain. When the caries involve dentin there is sensitivity to hot and cold foods.

As the caries proceed the sensitivity increases. Finally, when the caries the nerve of the tooth, there is severe pain. If the infection spreads from the tooth into the surrounding bone then there is a swelling, along with pain.

Which is the best time for doing a filling?

The tooth can best be filled when the cavity is not very deep. If the caries is limited to the dentin then it can be filled. In case the cavity becomes very deep. i.e. if it involves the nerve (plup) of the tooth then it cannot be filled. Sometime, the cavity may not be very, deep, but in case it is very broad, then too it cannot be filled. In such cases it has to be capped.

Do chocolates cause cavities?

A foodstuff which contains a large amount of sugar can cause cavities. Sweets, chocolates, candies, biscuits etc. have a lot of sugar in them. Furthermore, they are very sticky and accumulate on the tooth surfaces. They therefore cause cavities. It is the local action of these sugary foodstuffs that cause, cavities if the sugars were to go directly into the stomach then there would be no cavities.

Nowadays, the consumption of sugary foodstuffs has increased. An isolated bout of indulgence in sweets is of no consequence. It is repeated attacks of sweets on the tooth surface that cause cavities.

How can this be controlled?

As pointed out before, if sugars repeatedly get stuck on the tooth surface it leads to cavities, sugars must not be allowed to stick on the tooth surface.

Parents must not use sweets as an inducement for a child to have his dinner or do his homework or for proper behavior or to put a child to sleep. The most damage is caused by children sucking sweets during sleep.

What is a childhood without chocolates?

Certainly childhood would not be eaten sweets. But they must be eaten sensibly and within limits. Sweets should be eaten for fun and not given as a bribe or as a reward. A child’s toothache is no fun for the parents either. Love can conquer everything except, possibly, a toothache.

Children would still insist on eating sweets.

With proper care it is possible to eat sweets and free from dental proper too. After sweets are eaten,  parents must see to it that children eat some raw, fibrous fruits or vegetables e.g. carrots, cucumber, apples. These clean the teeth and prevent sugars from sticking on them. Sweets must be given before meals and not be consumed between meals. It must be remembered that it is the local action of sugars that causes the problem. Sugary foodstuffs must not be allowed to stick to the tooth surfaces.

How many times a day must one brush the teeth?

You must brush your teeth after every meal. Brushing at night is more important than in the morning. When we have food in the evening and we don’t brush before retiring then the bacteria have a full 8-10 hours to attack the enamel and cause cavities. Brushing before retiring is a must.

How often must you change the brush?

The brush must be changed as soon as its bristles become frayed. Usually it takes 3-4 mouths. A toothbrush with frayed bristles has reduced cleaning efficiency and tit also acts as a source of bacteria. Change the brush as soon as its bristles start spreading.

What are other ways to prevent cavities ?

Brushing has to be supplemented with flossing. With floss the interdental are is cleaned very well. Fluoride mouthwashes are available. The child must rinse his mouth with such a mouthwash before retiring.

Fluoride strengthens the enamel and makes it resistant to acid attack.

Nowadays, topical fluoride applications are done. A solution of fluoride is applied on the child’s teeth. This strengthens the enamel. It has to be done by a dental surgeon. It is done every six months till the age of 12 and is very helpful in reducing cavities.

Pit and fissure sealants are available. These seal small irregularities on the biting surface of the teeth, where most of the cavities begin. It prevents food and plaque accumulation and hence cavities. This can be done only by a dental surgeon.

Regular professional checkups are also very important. Through regular check-ups a dental surgeon can detect new cavities which are very small and treat them at an early stage when treatment is simple and inexpensive. Regular professional check-ups go a long way in preventing dental disease.

Why are milk teeth important? After all they are going to fall.

Milk teeth are going to fall only when their purpose has been served. The front teeth start falling at the age of six years. The grinders fall at about the age of twelve. If a milk tooth is extracted before the permanent one is ready to take its place then it causes problem. It leads to deficient growth of the jaws. Sometimes the skin and bone close over the permanent tooth and this retards its eruption. Milk teeth are as important as permanent teeth.

My child refuses to brush his teeth.

In case the child is very small, the parents must brush the child’s teeth. In case the child doses not allow the use of a brush then his teeth must be cleaned with a Turkish towel with a little toothpaste on it.
It is best that the child brushes his teeth immediately after dinner before he settles down in front of the T.V. Brushing must not be postponed till the child starts feeling sleepy. Attempts to make a child brush his teeth when he is feeling sleepy are not very successful. Either he will not brush, he will not brush them properly.