Tooth Decay Causes and Symptoms | Natural Health Blog

Date: 02/07/2013    Written by: Beth Levine

Making the Most of Toothache Day

Tooth Decay Symptoms

Tomorrow is National Toothache Day.  While that may not seem like much of a thing to celebrate, maybe it is truly more about taking care of our teeth to ensure we don't end up with a nasty toothache.

There are several factors that can bring about a toothache.  The precipitating cause of many toothaches is a cavity in the tooth, one of many tooth decay symptoms.1  If a cavity is left unfilled, over time it can grow. This can cause an infection or damage the structure of the tooth and lead to a crack or break in the enamel.  All of this will necessitate a visit to the dentist, so it is essential to think prophylactically and do what you can to avoid decay in the first place.

Tooth decay is a very common occurrence, and it affects all of us to one degree or another.  The bacteria that are present in everyone's mouth help begin the process of digesting the food we eat.  However, in combination, the bacteria, particles of food, saliva, and acids turn into plaque, which will adhere to the teeth. Dental plaque is a pale yellow biofilm that forms on teeth as colonizing bacteria try to attach themselves to the tooth's smooth surface.  Over time, if it has not been removed, the plaque hardens into tartar, which can affect the health of the teeth and gums and advance the decaying process.2 Tartar, also called calculus, is hardened dental plaque. It is caused by the continual accumulation of minerals from saliva as they combine with plaque on the teeth. Its rough surface provides an ideal medium for further plaque formation in addition to irritating and inflaming the gums, causing them to pull away from the teeth -- ultimately threatening the health of the gums and the teeth themselves.

But back to tooth decay. Some foods are much more likely to promote tooth decay symptoms than others.  All carbohydrates might be attributed to tooth decay causes because they break down into the sugars and starches that promote the formation of plaque.  And sugary, sticky fare such as licorice or caramels are some of the worst offenders since bits of them adhere to the teeth and remain there, resistant to washing away with saliva or a sip of water. Let's not forget drinks, either.  All drinks containing sugar--whether they are juices, sports drinks, or sodas--will literally bathe the teeth in a sugary solution that also sticks to the teeth.  On top of that, slowly sipping your beverage renews the production of acids over and over.  So while the mouth can typically clear out most of the decay-causing acid in 30 minutes, when you linger with a drink containing sugar, the acids are continually produced with each sip.3 And some beverages, such as juices, teas, and energy drinks are actually worse than sodas in this regard since their acidity more effectively resists buffering, thus maintaining the acid environment in your mouth long after you stop drinking.4 The main problem with the high acidity is that it eats away at the enamel coating on your teeth that protects them from the bacteria.

According to your dentist, gentle, yet thorough brushing of your teeth should do a good job of eliminating a good deal of the residue left behind.  The twice-a-day, morning and night routine for brushing isn't bad, but it's really just a start.  First of all, a morning tooth brushing should take place after breakfast to ensure the removal of all food matter.  Then, ideally, you can keep a travel toothbrush handy and try to squeeze in some cleaning after lunch.  Finally, your last brushing of the night should regularly be accompanied by flossing to clean between the teeth and around the gum line, where plaque is difficult to reach and can therefore flourish.  And no drinking anything other than water once your teeth have been cleaned for the night!

All of this can go a long way toward preventing tooth decay and further complications that will wind up with you in a dentist's chair for serious repair work.  No one enjoys that and besides, visits to the dentist pose their own hazards.  While going for a basic cleaning to combat tooth decay causes may be a safe bet, it's many of the extras that are not necessarily the healthiest choice.  For instance, many dentists have gone from using traditional X-rays to cone-beam CT scanners.  These handy machines offer a 3D view of all the structures within and around the mouth.  But they also expose patients to two to eight times the amount of radiation of traditional scans.  And depending on the type of machine and setting variations, that can increase to as much as 67 times the radiation dose.5

If you do need to get a cavity treated, do not let your dentist talk you into an amalgam filling.  Studies have shown, despite assurances from the American Dental Association, that they leach mercury into your body, affecting the brain and numerous organs.  If you already have amalgam fillings, try to do a heavy metal detox twice a year to rid your system of the mercury regularly.

You might also want to consider a couple of alternative health approaches. Oil pulling first thing in the morning, even before brushing, can help control the bacteria in your mouth both above and below the gum line. And supplementing with systemic proteolytic enzymes, which make their way from your bloodstream to your saliva, can break down and wash away both plaque and tartar build-up in a matter of days. 

Either way, take care of your teeth and gums and you can truly celebrate your own Toothache Day by never having one.

  • 1. Bautista, Donna. "Toothache." Medicine Net. 11 January 2013. Accessed 28 January 2013.
  • 2. "Dental cavities." National Institutes of Health. 22 February 2012. Accessed 28 January 2013.
  • 3. O'Connor, Anahad. "The Claim: More Sugar Leads to More Cavities." New York Times. 16 August 2010. Accessed 28 January 2013.
  • 4. Madison Park. "Juices, tea and energy drinks erode teeth." July 29, 2009. (Accessed 29 Jan 2013.)
  • 5. Araki, K., et al. "Characteristics of a newly developed dentomaxillofacial X-ray cone beam CT scanner." Dento Maxillo Facial Radiology. 1 January 2004. Accessed 28 January 2013.

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    Submitted by Lester Sawicki on
    February 7, 2013 - 6:45pm

    The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches celebrate the feast day of St. Apollonia on February 9, and she is popularly invoked against the toothache because of the torments she had to endure.

    Submitted by Ellen in Carbondale , Il on
    February 20, 2017 - 5:47am
    Carbondale , Illinois

    It leads to cavities that can affect the deeper layers of the tooth.If not treated, tooth decay can cause pain, infection, and tooth loss.

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