Tooth decay: Causes and Treatments
What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay refers to the wearing down of the layers of enamel and dentin that form the outer surface of your teeth. Eventually, this can result in a hole or cavity appearing in your tooth, resulting in increased sensitivity and pain.
Why does it happen?
Tooth decay happens when plaque builds up on your teeth. The acidity from this plaque causes the enamel and dentin layers to dissolve, which leads to decay.
Being a smoker, or drinking alcohol can also encourage tooth decay, as these factors affect your saliva production.
How can I spot Tooth Decay?
If your teeth are showing signs of decay, you may notice the following symptoms:
• Sensitivity when eating hot or cold food or drink,
• A tooth ache,
• Dark patches or a darker shade on a tooth,
• A bad taste.
How do I prevent it?
Providing you have regular dental check-ups, and maintain good oral hygiene at home, tooth decay shouldn't be a problem. There are a few steps you can take to make doubly sure it stays away though:
• Floss regularly, and always brush your teeth with a fluoride paste twice a day.
• When brushing, don't rinse away the toothpaste with water - this removes the protecting layer the paste leaves.
• Brush your tongue to remove bacteria, and replace your toothbrush regularly.
• Avoid sugary food and drinks.
Can it be treated?
If left alone, tooth decay can result in gum disease or abscesses, so it's important to get it looked at by your dentist as soon as possible. If spotted early, your dentist may be able to treat it with a fluoride varnish. This adds an extra layer to your teeth, preventing the decay from getting any worse.
If your tooth decay has led to a cavity, you may require a filling. In this circumstance, the decay will be removed from your tooth before being filled. However, once the decay reaches your tooth's root, you may need a root canal treatment, which will remove the tooth nerve, to be replaced by a crown or filling.
If the tooth decay has gone past this point, and a restorative treatment cannot be performed, you may have to have the affected tooth removed.
If you think you might have tooth decay, get in touch with your local practice to make an appointment. Your dentist will provide a thorough examination, before providing the right treatment for your dental needs.