Basic Information on Tooth Decay and Gum Disease

Tooth Decay (Dental caries)

What is tooth decay?

Tooth Decay is the slow destruction of the tooth surface resulting in the formation of a cavity(hole) on the tooth.

What causes tooth decay?

Frequent intake of sugary food such as sweets, sweetened drinks, biscuits, ice cream etc. and highly refined food is the main cause of tooth decay. Bacteria or germs from saliva, which stick to the surface of our teeth and gums, breakdown the sugary food that we eat and drink into acids. These acids eat into the surfaces of our teeth (enamel), It is usually a painless process when this starts, but when tooth decay reaches inner part of the tooth (pulp), pain can be felt and infection might eventually develop.

Signs and symptoms

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks
  • Hole formation (cavity) in the tooth
  • Toothache
  • Swelling of gums surrounding the decayed tooth (dental abscess)

How can you prevent tooth decay?

Tooth decay is a lifestyle disease so self-care is the most important form of prevention. Reduce the number of times (frequency) sugary foods and drinks are taken in; it is also important to reduce the amount. If we need to consume sugary items, we should do so when we have our main meal-hence our slogan “SUGAR OFF BETWEEN MEALS”. Where snacks are needed between meals, consider fresh and health ones without refined such as : Fruits (e.g. banana, apples, oranges, water melon) and salty snacks e.g. peanuts

Brush your teeth daily using fluoride tooth paste. Go for regular check-ups at least twice a year with the interval of six month.


  • Filling (restoration) of the decayed tooth.
  • Extraction (removal) of the decayed tooth. This is normally considered when the tooth can not be filled.

Do’s and Dont’s


  • Brush teeth at least twice a day
  • Floss your teeth everyday
  • Visit the dental professional regularly


  • Don’t clean your teeth using sand, brick or anything other than recommended materials
  • Don’t open bottles using teeth
  • Avoid fights
  • Avoid sugary food in between meals.
  • Do not smoke

Gum Diseases (periodontal diseases)

What is gum disease?

This is an infection of the structures that support the teeth; such as the gums,; the fibres (tissues supporting the teeth), and the jaw bone. After a long time this infection may lead to eventual loosening and final loss of the tooth.

What causes gum disease?

This is caused by bacteria in dental plaque (dirt or a yellowish-white deposit which forms on a teeth that are not adequately cleaned). If plaque is not removed, it accumulates and produces toxins (some poisonous substance) which irritate the gum. This may result in bleeding and swelling of the gums, and bad breath.

Signs and symptoms

  • Bleeding gums
  • Swelling of gums
  • Painful gums
  • Bad breath
  • Calculus (hardened dirt/plaque)

At an advanced level

  • The teeth become loose
  • The teeth appear longer than others
  • Swelling (abscess) on the gums may occur

How can you prevent gums disease?

  • Like tooth decay, Gum disease is also a lifestyle disease and therefore selfcare is the most important form of prevention.
  • Clean thoroughly at least twice everyday to avoid accumulation of dental plaque, using a tooth brush or a chewing stick
  • You may use dental floss to remove dirty trapped between the teeth


  • Treatment for gum disease is the same as prevention. The disease is reversible at the stage where there is bleeding of gums only and therefore thorough cleaning of the teeth everyday is the way to treat it.
  • If there is calculus, it has to be cleaned at the dental clinic
  • If the tooth is loose, it may have to be extracted.


Imesomwa mara 1870 Imehaririwa Ijumaa, 05 Mai 2017 17:42
Dr. Barnabas Mbogo

Dr. Barnabas Mbogo ana utaalamu kwenye meno na programu za afya ya jamii kwa ujumla(Community Health Programs))

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