Tooth decay

Tooth decay or dental caries is a common condition which results in the breakdown of a tooth, leading to dental cavities. But if this left untreated then the decay eventually reaches the nerve and the root canal where it can cause an abscess.

If this occurs then root canal treatment is required to save the tooth. Failing that, the decayed tooth may have to be extracted.

What is tooth decay?

A good way of thinking of tooth decay is to compare it to a degenerative disorder. Basically, the condition of the tooth deteriorates over time due to the presence of tartar and plaque.

These are sticky substances which are produced during the breakdown of food into starches and sugars. These substances combine with bacteria in the mouth and attack the hard outer coating on the tooth – known as the enamel.

Tartar and plaque build up on the teeth over time and if they are not removed, damage the enamel of the tooth leading to tooth decay.

Signs of tooth decay

There are a few symptoms which indicate the presence of tooth decay. These include:

  • Pain
  • White spot on the tooth
  • Bad breath
  • Extreme sensitivity to hot/cold foods and liquids
  • Bad taste in your mouth
  • Loose filling/tooth

These are all warning signs which mean that you need to address this problem as soon as possible. In the meantime avoid sugary or acidic foods and anything hard or ice cold on your teeth.

Causes of tooth decay

The main cause of tooth decay is poor dental hygiene. If you fail to clean and care for your teeth then you are ant risk of developing tooth decay. 

This is why it is important that you brush and floss your teeth twice a day, every day. Minimise your consumption of foods which are sweet and/or sugary and visit your dentist at least twice a year for a check up.

Treatment for tooth decay

If the tooth decay is caught at a stage where it has caused a hole (cavity) to develop in the tooth then it can be treated with a filling. This can be accompanied by rinsing your mouth with salt water and taking painkillers if necessary.

If it is left untreated then the tooth decay spreads into the rest of the tooth and infects the root canal. If this occurs then it requires a more complex and time consuming process known as root canal treatment.

Preventing tooth decay

It is possible to prevent tooth decay by a few, common sense measures. These include a good oral hygiene routine, mouthwashes and regular check ups with your dentist.

Try to limit the amount of sweet, sugary or high fat foods you consume and brush your teeth after every meal. Switch from sugar based snacks to healthier alternatives.

Another option is to have a protective sealant applied to the biting edge of your teeth which will reduce the risk.

If you want to know more about cleaning your teeth then visit the dental hygiene section.

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