Have you been eating too many sweets over the holidays? Are you concerned what kind of effect this could have on the health of your teeth? Statistics have shown that social class and geographical location is a factor in the health of our teeth and how well they are kept.
One study showed that more 5 year olds in the north had missing or decayed teeth than in the South. A 2013 survey found that 46% of 15 year olds and 34% of 12 year olds has “obvious decay” in their adult teeth.
How Does Decay Damage Tooth Structure?
Our Teeth are hugely complex structures used to support the structure of the face, help us chew and consume food. On average we have 32 teeth, but it is normal and healthy to have less than this. Our teeth are made up of 5 layers including, enamel, dentin, pulp, cementum and periodontal ligament.
Enamel is the outermost later of the tooth. Enamel is made up of a hard structure called Calcium Phosphate. The role of this layer is to protect the neural tissue that lies underneath. It’s common that when enamel is destroyed, the tooth becomes more sensitive to high acidity, alkalinity and changes in temperature.
Dentin is the next layer of its structure, this is made of living cells. These living cells are directly connected to our neural tissues and thus, are responsible for the first sensation of sensitivity once the enamel is broken down. This typically manifests as ‘shooting pains’ into the gum.
Pulp is the third layer of the five. This includes another layer of soft living cells, they have better connectivity to the neural tissue and a rich blood supply. We colloquially refer to it as the nerve of the tooth. Typically, we have up to 52 pulps in our life time, 20 in our ‘baby’ teeth and 32 in our ‘adult'. It is also responsible for the production of dentin, and supplying the tooth with nutrients to stay strong.
Cementum and Periodontal Ligament have the same roles within tooth structure. Cementum is a type of connective tissues that connects to the jawbone. Acts as a ‘cement’ to keep the tooth in place. As for the Periodontal Ligament, it is the final structure in the tooth and is responsible for anchoring the teeth in place.
Tooth Decay is the build of plaque on the outer surface of the tooth. This leads to decay of the enamel. Which as previously mentioned leads to sensitivity of the tooth. Plaque is a sticky white material that forms on the surface of the tooth made up of bacteria. The bacterias most common in plaque formation are Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus sobrinus, and Lactobacillus. This bacteria then attaches to the tooth.The bacteria produce an enzyme called glucosyl transferase, this reacts with sugar molecues to produce glycocalyx. Finally , the bacteria produce decaying acids. This is dangerous to the tooth’s structure because whenever we eat or drink the bacteria is stimulated to produce acids that can wear down the enamel. This is elevated when eating foods that are incredibly high in sugar, such as cakes, sweets and sugar sweetened beverages. The decaying acids can lead to the recession of the gums exposing deeper layers of the tooth, increasing sensitivity and even causing the tooth to rot entirely.
What are the causes of Tooth Decay?
There a number of causes that when combined can encourage tooth decay, these are:
- Not taking in enough fluoride.
- Not brushing regularly
- Eating a diet that is high in refined carbohydrates.
What are the symptoms of Tooth Decay?
The symptoms of tooth decay tend to happen sequentially. Firstly the tooth becomes incredibly sensitive as the layers of the tooth (enamel) are worn down. This can leave you sensitive to heat, cold, acidity or alkalinity. Furthermore, you may experience toothache that can be continuous or sporadic shooting pains. This is caused by the decay reaching the neural tissue. If left without treatment brown and black spots will appear, indicating decay. Decay will generate a bad taste and smell from the mouth.
How can Green Tea Help?
The Camellia Sinensis extract known as Green Tea Leaves attack and prevent all stages that lead to decay, attachment, enzyme then acid production. Evidence has shown that proteins within Green Tea are able to bind to the surface of the tooth and prevent any bacteria from doing the same. Furthermore, one of the main active ingredients of Green Tea are Catechins. Catechins have an incredible ability to reduce the work of the enzyme, glucosyl transferase. By doing so it then lowers the production of glycocalyx. Finally, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is thought to be able to break down the biofilm membrane the bacteria produce that covers the teeth. Bacterial Biofilms are notoriously difficult to break down.
What other tips are there?
- Brush a minimum of twice a day.
- Ensure that if you have plaque build up on or between the tooth you have it professionally removed by a hygienist.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash
- Avoid highly acidic food
- Avoid high sugar foods such as sweets, cakes and processed snacks
- Be sure to have a sufficient calcium + vitamin D intake
- Palmer.G. (2016). Dental Health. Available: http://www.poverty.org.uk/22/index.shtml.
- National Statisitcs. (2013). Children’s Dental Health Survey. Available: http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB17137/CDHS2013-Executive-Summary.pdf.
- Hoffman, M. (2015). Picture of the Teeth. Available: http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/picture-of-the-teeth#1.
- Watson. S. (2016). Tooth Pulp. Available: https://www.verywell.com/tooth-pulp-dental-terms-1059180.
- Barker. M. (2010). Dental Caries Prevention by Camellia sinensis. Available: https://microbewiki.kenyon.edu/index.php/Dental_Caries_Prevention_by_Camellia_sinensis
- American Dental Association . (2016). Decay. Available: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/decay.
- NHS. (2016). Tooth Decay . Available: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Dental-decay/Pages/Introduction.aspx.