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Cavities: when sugar attacks teeth

Bacteria present in the dental plaque can proliferate, nourished by the sugars coming from food. While developing, they progressively destroy the different hard tissues of the tooth, forming a cavity. The significant or frequent consumption of sugar, poor oral hygiene, and the insufficient production of saliva promotes the formation of cavities. In the absence of treatment, a cavity can develop into an abscess.

How cavities form

Breakdown of enamel

The bacteria in the dental plaque transform the sugars from food into acids, which dissolve the enamel layer of the tooth.

Destruction of dentine

The breakdown of the enamel creates a breach by which bacteria penetrate the tooth. The infection spreads to the dentin and destroys it.

Inflammation of the pulp

The infection attacks the heavily innervated pulp and causes its inflammation. The pain is therefore intense and continuous.

Creation of an abcess

In the absence of treatment, the infection spreads to the alveolar canal. It can lead to necrosis of the tooth and form an abscess. The infection can spread to the entire body and cause serious complications, like meningitis, endocarditis, and joint infections.

Dental X-rays

Rapid and painless, dental X-rays make visible the hard tissues of the tooth as well as any prior treatment to establish the diagnosis of a tooth or gum affliction.

Treatment of a cavity

Drilling is the first step in treating a cavity. It consists in eliminating all of the infected tissues of the tooth with a metal drill. The cavity created is then filled with a resistant and nontoxic material, which may be an amalgam filling or composite resin. The dentist molds the filling material while respecting the shape of the tooth and then polishes it, which restores the aspect of the tooth and its function of chewing food. A treated tooth is more fragile and must be monitored carefully because new cavities can form under an old filling. When the cavity is deep, a root canal and placement of an artificial crown may be necessary.

Root canal

In the case of deep cavities, dental abscesses, or even a broken tooth, a root canal (devitalization or pulp removal) may be completed under local anesthesia. After having removed all of the pulp from the tooth, the alveolar canals are cleaned, widened, disinfected, and filled with a filling material. The upper part of the tooth is filled with an amalgam filling or composite resin. Deprived of pulp, the tooth is no longer irrigated by blood vessels and becomes more fragile. When the natural crown is very damaged, a root canal is often followed by the placement of an artificial crown. The entire treatment is painless, but it is a long and meticulous process that may be divided into multiple sessions.

Root canal

Oral health

  • Adopt proper oral hygiene practices

    Oral hygiene consists in regularly eliminating dental plaque, which continuously forms on the teeth, by brushing and flossing. When properly practiced, this preserves the health of the teeth, gums, and mucous membranes of the mouth by preventing the appearance of cavities and infections of tissues that support the teeth (gingivitis, periodontitis). Tooth brushing must be done at least twice a day for three minutes after each meal. Dental floss must be passed daily between each tooth before brushing. Poor oral hygiene promotes the proliferation of bacteria of the buccal flora, which causes bad breath. This problem, called halitosis, can also be caused by a lack of saliva, a cold, sinusitis, or the ingestion of substances such as garlic, onion, coffee, cauliflower, tobacco, or alcohol.
Oral health
  • Limit your consumption of sugary or acidic food and beverages

    Certain processed foods and certain drinks (soda, fruit juice) contain large quantities of simple carbohydrates such as sucrose, glucose, and fructose, which promote the formation of cavities. Choose food and drinks without added refined sugars. Food that is high in acid (sports drinks, carbonated drinks, coffee, wine, etc.) causes erosion of the dental enamel, which can lead to the appearance of cavities, discoloration, and tooth pain. Therefore, avoid sipping acidic drinks for long periods of time and limit the time the acid is in contact with your teeth. Do not brush your teeth immediately after having consumed acidic drinks; instead, rinse your mouth by drinking water, milk, or a soybean beverage in order to avoid damaging the weakened enamel.
  • Have your teeth axamined regularly by a dentist

    Depending on the individual, annual or semiannual cleanings and exams at a dental clinic prevent the development of cavities and tartar accumulation.
  • Avoid smoking

    The active consumption of tobacco promotes the development of cavities, periodontitis, and mouth cancer.
  • Take care of your childrens health

    • To avoid the appearance of cavities, limit your children’s consumption of sugary foods, particularly before bed. Also avoid giving them a bottle of milk or fruit juice just before they fall asleep.
    • Your child's first teeth can be wiped with a damp cloth. Later on, use a small soft children's toothbrush and toothpaste your childs teeth twice a day. Progressively teach your child to do it himself.
    • Take your child to the dentist after the eruption of his first tooth and regularly thereafter.
    • To prevent misalignment of the teeth, discourage prolonged thumb sucking.

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