Dental caries or tooth decay is the most important cause of tooth loss. It is characterised by a bacteria-induced progressive destruction of the mineral and organic components of the enamel and dentine, the two outer layers of the tooth. It is considered to be one of the most common diseases of modern age caused, in large measure, by eating devitalised foods of today, which are too soft and too sweet.
The teeth are an amazing balance of form and function, aesthetic beauty and engineering. Good teeth are an important part of one’s health and appearance. They play a very important role in the digestion. One can look at one’s best with a good smile, which emanates from good teeth.
At first, the tooth may be merely sensitive to hot and cold substances in the mouth and also to pressure from biting. Later, as abcess forms at the base of the tooth, the pain become severe. It may be sharp, throbbing, shooting or constant. If the tooth is not properly treated, it will eventually have to be extracted. Causes
Dental caries results from faulty diet. The most common cause of this disease is the consumption of soft drinks, cakes, pastries, refined carbohydrates and sugar in all forms. Lack of balance between carbohydrates and proteins and insufficient intake of vitamins and minerals also contribute to this disease. It is commonly prevalent where refined, devitalised, processed and demineralised food, grown on soils deficient in minerals, are eaten.
Food particles lodged in the mouth may provide a suitable place for the growth of bacteria. These, in turn, produce a local acid reaction which then attacks the surface of the tooth. Minute cracks or defects in the enamel, or hard outer covering of the tooth may also lead to this process. Once the enamel has been eroded away, the body of the tooth is more easily damaged.
The treatment of dental caries consists of the removal of decayed regions of the tooth and filling the cavities. If the cavities have reached the pulp, it may become necessary to extract the affected tooth.
Proper cleaning is the most important step towards healthy and sparkling teeth. Ideally, teeth should be cleaned after every meal, but one thorough cleansing each day will be far better than any number of hurried brushing. A quick brushing is a waste of time. The teeth may appear clean, but they will still be coated with a layer of plaque, a sticky, transparent substance. It is invisible, but it canbe felt as a fuzzy coating on the teeth. It is this substance which leads to decay. In fact, even with a normal brushing, one can still miss removing as much as 80 per cent of the plaque.
There are many theories on how best to clean the teeth. The consensus of dental opinion, however, seems to back using a circular motion with the brush, so as to ensure that all dental surfaces are cleaned. The child should not be afraid to touch the gums with the brush, as this gentle stimulation improves the blood circulation in the gums.
Toothpaste is not in fact essential for the removal of plaque, although most people prefer to use it. It does help to keep the mouth fresh. The flouride,which is not being added to an increasing number of pastes, also helps to strengthen the outer enamel and this renders it less susceptible to decay.
The mineral fluorine is essential for tooth-building. Studies on dental caries in human beings have shown that the incidence is high in areas where the drinking water contains less than 0.5 ppm. fluorine and low in areas where the water contains 1 to 2 ppm. fluorine. It has further been shown that the addition of 1 ppm. fluorine to drinking water significantly reduces the incidence of dental caries.
Diet plays a vital role in dental health. The condition of the teeth, after they are formed, depends upon the foods one eats from day to day. Dental decay, the destruction of the bone around the teeth, and infections of the gums can be prevented with an appropriate diet. In fact, with a proper diet, the teeth and jaw- bones can be made harder and healthier as the years go by.
All types of sweets and refined foods and all products made from white flour and white sugar should be avoided as fibreless refined foods allow particles to accumulate on the teeth. It is important to ensure that the diet includes plenty of raw vegetables and whole meal bread. Whole foods are ideal. They are good for the teeth. The gums need friction to keep them firm and whole foods also help remove plaque. They are therefore called ‘detergent foods’ by some dentists. Millet and seasome (til) seeds are especially beneficial. Sesame seeds are extremely rich in calcium.
Onions are considered beneficial in the prevention of tooth decay. Latest researches by Russian doctors have confirmed the bactericidal properties of onion. According to these findings, if a person consumes one raw onion every day by thorough mastication, he will be protected from a host of tooth disorders. The Russian doctor, B.P.Tohkin, who has contributed to this research, has expressed the opinion that chewing raw onions for three minutes is sufficient to kill all the germs in the mouth. Toothache is often allayed by placing a small piece of onion on the bad tooth or gum.
Tooth decay can be prevented by regular consumption of apples as they possess a mouth cleansing property. Dr. T.T. Hanks in his books ‘Dental Survey’ says, Apples have a mouth cleansing property that no other fruit possesses, and taken after meal, they have the same effect as a tooth brush in cleansing the teeth, with the added advantage that the acid content, aside from its nutritive value, is of assistance in promoting the flow of saliva in the mouth, which is also beneficial to the teeth.’ The acids of the apple also exerts an antiseptic influence upon the germs present in the mouth and teeth when it is thoroughly chewed.
Apples are thus regarded as natural preserves of teeth and should be taken during tooth troubles.
Lemon and lime also promote healthy teeth and gums, due to their high vitamin C content. They strengthen the gums and teeth and are very effective in preventing and curing acute inflammation of the gum margins. They should therefore form a part of children’s diet.
In preventing tooth decay, what one eats is no doubt important, but equally important is when one eats. Frequent small snacks are very harmful to teeth, as they produce an acid medium in which the bacteria thrive. The number of times one eats sugar is one of the most important factor in determining the rate of decay. For this, reason, it is better to eat sweets at the end of a meal rather than between meals.