What is the Process of Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay process is a very slow process and can be prevented and made reversible. Let us examine how the process of tooth decay occurs.
Process of tooth decay
- Bacteria are always present inside the mouth and form a thin-film of bacterial growth-plaque. Generally, after a snack, drink or a meal, these bacteria attack on the food residues present on the teeth. They utilize carbohydrates, starch and sugars from the residue and convert them into acids. Thus, the pH of the mouth decreases and becomes acidic.
- Normal pH inside the mouth is around 6.2 to 7.0 and if the pH becomes too acidic (less than 5), then the acids leads to demineralisation (dissolving the minerals) of the surface of the tooth and creating lesions on enamel. This weakens the tooth structure.
- The most destructive strain of bacteria which easily attaches to teeth and also produces much acids (a lot) is Streptococcus mutans. Some of the common bacterial strains which are less destructive and less acid producing are Actinomyces and Lactobacillus.
- Later, bacteria stops acid production as all the sugars are converted into acids and no sugars are left. This is the time where remineralisation can occur and its chance to repair the damage by saliva minerals and fluoride from the toothpaste.
- Thus, this is the regular process of demineralisation and remineralisation. But, if a dental plaque is regularly not removed or if the consumption of sugar is too often, then the remineralisation part is not sufficient to repair the tooth surface damage. This leads to formation of a small cavity on the enamel of the tooth. Thus, the continuous above process results in tooth decay.
- Then the tooth decay penetrates the deeper softer tissue through the unprotected enamel. Tooth decay penetrates through the dentin, tooth pulp and nerves of the tooth.
In this way the process of tooth decay progresses, but with proper dental hygiene, proper diet, regular dental checkup can help to prevent the tooth decay process.