Tooth decay is a common oral health issue, and if left untreated, can lead to several problems, including cavities, abscesses and tooth loss. Tooth decay occurs when harmful bacteria in plaque convert food into acids that in turn attack the enamel of the teeth. Read on to find out more about how decay progresses, and what you can do to prevent it…
The process of decay begins when the teeth are frequently exposed to the bacteria in plaque. These bacteria produce acids that destroy the minerals that make up the enamel of the teeth. When minerals are lost in a process known as demineralisation, you may begin to notice white spots on the surface of your teeth, which could be an early sign of decay.
If left untreated, the enamel continues to break down and weaken. As this happens, small holes known as cavities can develop. We recommend that cavities are filled by your dentist as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the teeth.
Dentin decay is the next stage in the process. When the dentin, which is the tissue beneath the enamel, is affected by tooth decay, you may experience some sensitivity to hot, cold and sweet foods and drinks. If left untreated at this stage, decay may spread to the pulp, which is located inside the tooth. Pulp damage can cause considerable pain, as well as symptoms like swelling and inflammation.
If tooth decay is left to further damage the pulp, the bacteria can lead to infection and the formation of an abscess. An abscess is a pocket of pus that can cause pain, swelling and fever.
Although tooth decay is a common concern, the good news is that it can be prevented. One of the best ways to avoid tooth decay is to practice proper oral hygiene every day. This means brushing your teeth at least twice a day and after meals if you can. You should also floss daily.
It’s also advisable to limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks, such as soda, candy and processed carbohydrates. Foods and drinks with a high sugar content contribute to tooth decay quite considerably. You should also try and avoid frequent snacking — constant eating provides the bacteria in your mouth with plenty of sugars to convert into harmful acids that can damage the teeth.
To maintain your oral health and avoid issues like tooth decay and cavities, it is advisable to see your dentist for regular check-ups and cleans. Your dentist will be able to pick up on any early signs of decay before they become serious and resolve the issue before further damage is done.
Tooth decay can be treated, and the treatment that your dentist recommends will depend on the stage of decay you are experiencing. If your dentist identifies the initial stage of demineralisation, they may recommend a fluoride treatment to strengthen your enamel. If you are suffering from a cavity, a filling can be placed to repair the affected tooth.
If you are experiencing tooth decay in the dentin, a filling or a crown may be required. Root canal treatment is often necessary in the case of pulp damage and abscess.
At Mornington Peninsula Dental Clinic, we offer several preventative dentistry services to help maintain our patients’ oral health in the long term. Regular check-ups and cleans are among the best preventative treatments as they allow your dentist to identify and resolve any issues early. If you would like to find out more about the preventative options that we offer, please have a look here.
If you would like to come in and see us for a check-up and clean, or are interested in any of our other dental procedures, please get in touch here or give us a call on (03) 5975 5944.