Dentists say that our teeth are neurally healthier today than they have ever been. Some youngsters in industrialized countries reach maturity without having tooth cavity filled. Better dental hygiene is one reason; the fluoridation of water is another; and the addition of fluoride to toothpaste is useful factor.
Plaque, the sticky mixture of food, saliva and bacteria that forms on the teeth, is the main cause of dental caries, or decay. The bacteria, which are of a kind found only in the mouth, feed on sugars and scratches in food lodging in crevices and grooves, and create an acid that attacks the enamel. Once a small hole develops, the decay moves into the next layer, the dentin, and eventually into the tooth’s central pulp.
Usually, the initial attack passes unnoticed. Not until a cavity has opened, exposing the nerve, do we feel any pain. Sweet, hot or very cold food often triggers toothache, the first sign of a problem. To cure it, the dentist removes the decayed section of the tooth, and fills the hole. Sound oral hygiene and regular dental inspections are the best preventive steps, and they should start early. Children should eat sweet, sticky foods only at mealtimes, and get into the habit of brushing the teeth thoroughly immediately afterward.
Bottles of sweet liquids should never be given to babies as comforters. The proactive is a common cause of early tooth decay, encouraged sometimes by a belief that a child’s primary teeth aren’t important. They are – and they need careful protection. Children’s first teeth should be brushed gently with a soft brush as soon as they appear. Before that, the gums should be cleaned with a piece of damp cloth or gauze.