Tooth Decay: Treatment and Symptoms
Natural bacteria live in the mouth and form plaque which is a clear, sticky, film-like substance. Initially plaque is easy to remove from teeth. However, as it builds up it hardens into calculus (also known as tartar) which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. The parts of teeth most vulnerable to tooth decay are areas where plaque can easily accumulate – on the tops of teeth and next to the gum line.
As the bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugars found in the foods we eat, they form into acids which attack teeth for 20 minutes or more after eating. Over time, these acids destroy the tooth enamel leading to the first stages of decay. Left untreated, tooth decay can progress and damage the nerve, the root or the area at the base of the tooth causing the tooth to die.
Although tooth decay has declined among young children as a group, regular dental checkups can treat decay in its early stages before more serious symptoms occur.
Aging makes cavities an adult problem too as the majority of people over age 50 have tooth-root decay.
Symptoms of Tooth Decay:
- Tooth Sensitivity – tenderness or sensation of pain when eating or drinking something hot, cold or sweet
- Discolored spots appearing on teeth
- Bad Breath
- Unpleasant taste in your mouth
Treatment for Tooth Decay:
- Brushing and flossing with fluoride toothpaste can reverse early decay.
- Plastic sealants- A plastic coating which is applied to protect the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay often starts
- Tooth Filling – A material that plugs the cavity hole and restores a tooth to its original shape after the decay is removed.
- Crown – if the decay is severe, a crown or cap is used as a replacement for all or part of the damaged tooth.
- Tooth Extraction – involves removing the entire tooth and replacing it with a bridgeor implant.
Tooth decay can be prevented with good oral hygiene, a healthy diet and regular dental checkups.