Tooth decay or dental caries is a bacterial infection in your tooth. It needs sugar, bacteria and time in order to progress. We all produce plaque, a sticky layer of bacteria. When you eat or drink foods containing sugars, this bacteria produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The first stage is a white spot on your tooth, which turns brown and then eventually a hole or cavity appears.
How do you know if you have tooth decay?
Sometimes you are not aware you have a cavity and your dentist spots at his check-up or using dental x-rays.You may have noticed your tooth being more sensitive to temperature or sweet things. Occasionally you may feel a hole or food may get caught where it hasn’t before. Some people notice bad breath from the bacteria.If the decay is extensive it can travel to your nerve and cause an abscess. Usually the pain is more sever and you often develop a swelling and the tooth is uncomfortable to bite on. If this has happened the only treatment is root canal therapy or the tooth needs removing.
How can you fix it?
Early decay, more a cavity has appeared can reverse and heal itself. It needs a good diet, good cleaning and Fluoride for this to happen. Once it has formed a cavity the most predictable treatment is to visit your dentist to have a filling placed. They will eliminate the bacterial, clean the cavity and usually place a tooth coloured filling (composite). If the tooth is too broken down you may require a porcelain inlay onlay or crown.
How to prevent tooth decay?
- Tooth decay is a common problem, but it is entirely preventable.
- Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Use floss and an interdental brush at least once a day.
- Good diet and limit snacking.
- Reduce your sugar intake, especially between meals.
- Seeing your dentist to prevent cavities. Your dentist will decide how often they need to see you based on the condition of your mouth, habits and your diet.