Along with your general health wellbeing, good oral health is vital for your social life. Healthy teeth, gums, and mouth allow you to eat, drink and speak without any pain, discomfort, or embarrassment. Though there have been significant improvements in the state of dental health in Australia over the last three decades, more still needs to be done, this Dentist in Brisbane Pure Dentistry says.

Dental health statistics indicate that:

  • A quarter of children aged 5 to 10 have untreated decay in baby teeth
  • 1 in 25 adults (15 and above) do not have any natural teeth left
  • Out of every ten people, three cite cost as the primary reason for not visiting the dentist

However, the most telling of these statistics is that early treatment could have prevented 72,000 dental-related hospitalizations in 2017-18. This highlights the need to promote proper oral care and reduce the barriers to accessing treatment.

One of the primary dental conditions affecting Australians is dental caries, Dr Soha Kids Dentist in Brisbane, says. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), it is the most prevalent oral disease in Australia. Their research goes on to suggest that:

  • The prevalence of dental caries among children aged 5-10 in their deciduous teeth is at 42%
  • The prevalence of dental caries among indigenous children is at 61%
  • People living in remote areas are 1.4 times more likely than those living in major cities to get dental caries

With such a high number of children and a fair proportion of adults affected with dental caries, there is a great need to address the problem at its root cause. Efforts by the government, such as fluoridation of water, have helped. However, more stakeholders need to chip in as one of the main causes of tooth decay -malnutrition- requires concerted efforts among various stakeholders.

This whitepaper explores the effects of dental caries and how malnutrition contributes to its prevalence.

Dentist tooth examination

What are Dental Caries?

Dental caries are an erosion on the tooth enamel caused by bacteria, plaque, acids, and tartar. They’re commonly referred to as cavities or tooth decay and are common in both children and adults. Since they are a result of poor oral hygiene, they are preventable and treatable.

Despite this, they are still the most chronic disease among children between 6 and 11 and adolescents aged between 12 and 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In comparison, it is four times more common than asthma in adolescents aged 14 to 17. Adults, too, are not spared. Out of ten adults above the age of 20, nine have some degree of tooth-root decay.

In the early stages, dental caries is painless. If left untreated, they can spread to the root or nerve of a tooth, causing pain. They can also cause tooth abscesses, a potentially serious and extremely painful condition.

Dental caries photo

What are the Risk Factors of Dental Caries?

Some factors can cause dental caries. However, not all individuals who have the risk factors will get dental caries. They include:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Dry mouth
  • Advancing age as teeth become more prone to plaque
  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Smoking
  • Recessed gums

Malnutrition is another risk factor that’s common but does not get the due credit. This is because its effects come somewhat indirectly, albeit they’re just as impactful.

Relation Between Poor Nutrition/Malnutrition on Oral Health

Despite the importance of food, for most people, not much thought and planning goes into their diet. This is a risky way to live as food is the body’s fuel, and what you eat directly affects your health. When it comes to the body’s nutritional needs, teeth are just as susceptible as other organs.

Good nutrition is vital for oral health. However, the two have a unique cause-and-effect relationship. Malnutrition can cause oral health issues. When this happens, you may be unable to eat properly, thus causing further malnutrition.

Teeth require different vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients to grow well and remain healthy. Some include Calcium, Iron, and vitamins A, D, C, B1, B2, B6, and B12. The absence of such nutrients affects tooth development, mineralization, and gum development, among others. This leaves your teeth susceptible to decay-causing bacteria and acid. Also, it will be more difficult for your immune system to ward off infections in the mouth, increasing the risk of developing periodontal disease.

Despite the misguided notion that malnutrition is associated with poverty and starvation, it’s not necessarily the case. One may seem like they’re in good shape or even obese but still be malnourished. This is because one may consume many empty calories that translate to mass gain but have no nutritional value. This is a form of malnutrition referred to as hidden hunger, which affects many Australians.

Dental caries and malnutrition remain an intertwined global health challenge, especially among children in indigenous and remote populations. What’s worse is that nutritional challenges seem to be increasing. This is primarily due to the global nutrition transition where processed, low-quality, high-fat, carbohydrate-dense, high-sugar foods lacking in micronutrients have replaced traditional diets. Along with a dramatic increase in malnutrition, it has also led to a dramatic rise in chronic disease and obesity.

Symptoms of Dental Caries

Due to poor nutritional habits involving the consumption of carbohydrate and sugar-rich diets, many people are susceptible to dental caries. Depending on the extent of tooth decay, you may experience the symptoms occasionally or most of the time.

The symptoms of dental caries include:

  • Weakened enamel
  • Increased sensitivity
  • Holes of the tooth’s surface
  • Toothaches
  • Pits on affected teeth
  • Discolouration on specific spots

If left untreated, dental caries causes the enamel to demineralize, leaving the calcium and phosphate structure unprotected. When acid reaches the affected toot, it will penetrate and destroy it from the inside. At this point, it can become a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention, with symptoms such as:

  • Severe toothache that’s not responsive to over-the-counter pain medication
  • Severe pain and swelling in the jawbone

Reducing the Risk of Dental Caries

Dental caries has been categorized as one of the most common oral conditions. Fortunately, it is preventable. This involves reducing the impact or avoiding the risk factors.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

When it comes to oral health, hygiene is arguably your most important weapon. Some of the habits you should adopt include:

  • Brushing your teeth twice daily
  • Flossing your two times every day
  • Going to your dentist for routine cleaning and evaluation each year
  • Using antiseptic mouthwash

Along with these, you should also seek treatment anytime you notice dry mouth symptoms and receiving fluoride treatments by your dentist.

Becoming More Cautious with What You Consume

According to Brisbane City Dentist, Diet is an essential component of your oral health. Its effects come in two ways. First, some foods have a direct negative impact on your teeth, leading to decay. These include foods rich in sugar, starch, and acid. After consuming such foods, they’ll interact with the naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth to produce acid. This acid will break down the enamel, leading to dental caries.

Some of the sugar and carbohydrate-rich foods you should consume in moderation include:

  • Sweets and candies
  • Chocolate
  • Pastries
  • Soda and soft drinks

You should also avoid sticky foods or may become stuck in your teeth, such as popcorn and peanut butter. Foods that can get stuck on or between your teeth, not necessarily rich in sugar and starch, are dangerous. Other than moistening your mouth, saliva helps to wash away sugar and starch on your teeth. When foods are stuck between the teeth, they close off the channels saliva passes through to remove starch and sugar from your teeth.

Other habits that may affect your oral health include consumption of alcohol and smoking. Similar to acidic foods, alcohol can corrode the gums. Moreover, it dehydrates the body, affecting the production of saliva. When it comes to smoking, the tobacco in cigarettes can discolor your teeth and cause gum disease and various oral cancers.

The other way diet affects your oral health is through the nutrients you get. Along with calcium and phosphorus necessary for strengthening your teeth, other nutrients are also crucial to oral health. If, for instance, your calcium and phosphorus intake is low, your enamel may be more susceptible to acidic corrosion.

Should this happen, weakened teeth may affect your ability to chew and eat. As a result, it will affect your nutrition intake further. Since chewing and swallowing may become problematic, you may reduce your food intake or find yourself choosing foods for their ease of chewing.

Treatment of Dental Caries

Treatment of Dental Caries

To prevent further damage to your teeth, it is essential to see a dentist when you notice tooth decay or any of the symptoms. Fortunately, dental caries is easily treatable. Your dentist may perform a simple dental exam or an X-ray to determine the extent of caries. Some of the treatment options for tooth decay include:

  • Dental Fillings– Involves drilling into the affected area to remove the decayed portion and filling the space
  • Root canal– Damaged or dead nerves are removed to prevent infection and further impairment
  • Crowns– A crown is placed on severely decayed teeth to cover and protect the remaining
  • Extraction– Involves the removal of an entire tooth

Whereas it is possible to have your dental caries treated, you must select a facility that’s equipped to handle your needs. At Puredentistry.com.au, we offer top-notch dental care accompanied by compassion for our patients. Contact us today to leave your tooth decay problems in the past.