All you need to know about Teeth Decay

Written by gentle_24

June 5, 2024

A decayed tooth, also widely known as a cavity, is a hole that develops in your tooth. They are known to begin small and gradually get bigger if left untreated. Since many cavities don’t cause pain initially, it can be troublesome to detect this problem at an early stage. On the flip side, regular dental check-ups can assist in the early detection of tooth decay.

In a study performed, it was calculated that the average amount of cavities an individual has in their lifetime is 3.28.

(Source of Information: https://www.congressionaldental.com/dental-concerns/tooth-cavity/ )

Symptoms of a tooth Decay/Cavity:

The symptoms of a cavity vary based on the extent of the decay. They include:

  • Tooth sensitivity: You may experience discomfort when consuming hot, cold, or sweet foods and beverages. This heightened sensitivity can indicate the presence of a cavity.
  • Tooth pain: Persistent or occasional toothache can be a symptom of a cavity. The pain may intensify when biting or chewing hard or semi-solid food items.
  • A visible hole in your teeth: You might notice a small pit or hole in the affected tooth. This hole can become larger over time if not treated.
  • Black or white staining on your teeth: Discoloration, either as dark spots or white patches, may appear on the tooth’s surface. These stains can be an early indication of tooth decay.

Let’s move to what can cause you tooth decay or a cavity:

It is important to know that tooth cavities result from plaque, a sticky substance that adheres to teeth, comprising: Bacteria, Saliva, Acid and Food particles.

After consuming sugary foods or drinks, bacteria in the mouth convert sugar into acid, leading to plaque formation. This can occur quickly after eating or drinking anything sweet. Regular brushing is crucial as plaque sticks to teeth, and its acid content can gradually erode tooth enamel. Enamel is the hard, protective layer that defends against decay, and as it weakens, the risk of cavities increases.

Anyone and everyone can develop cavities, but certain factors increase the risk:

  • Consuming excessive sugary or acidic foods and drinks
  • Poor oral hygiene, such as not brushing or flossing daily
  • Insufficient exposure to fluoride during development of the tooth & thereafter. 
  • Dry mouth
  • Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia
  • Acid reflux disease, which can bring stomach acid into the mouth

Cavities are commonly seen in back teeth as they have grooves that can easily trap food particles. Additionally, they are harder to clean efficiently as they are far back in the moth to reach.

Tooth decay Solutions/Treatments:

If you experience symptoms like tooth sensitivity or pain, inform your dentist. They can diagnose tooth decay through an oral exam. Sometimes, cavities aren’t visible during an oral exam, so your dentist may use dental X-rays to help  detect decay.

Treatment options vary based on the stages of severity. Here are several methods:
(Stage 1 being early stage & minimal decay/enamel demineralisation and stage 4 being extensive  tooth decay)

Stage 1:
Early Stage Treatment
: A fluoride treatment can restore tooth enamel and prevent further decay if detected early.
Stage 2:
Tooth Fillings:
The dentist removes the decayed tooth structure using a drill and then fills the cavity with a material such as composite resin or glass ionomer cement. ( dental amalgam and gold is really use nowadays).
Stage 3:
Crowns: For more extensive decay, a custom-fit cap may be placed over the tooth to replace its natural crown. The dentist will remove the decayed material before fitting the crown.
Stage 4:
Root Canal: If the decay has reached  the pulp ( nerve inside the tooth)  it can damage the pulp in which case, root canal treatment treatment may be necessary. 

Root canal treatment is where The dentist removes the unhealthy nerve tissue,and any infection from inside the tooth, cleans the canals, medicates  and then fills them. a crown is often recommended  to be then placed over the tooth.

Quick Cavity prevention tips, by Dr. Roxanne Irani, Your dentist in Maroubra, Sydney:

Tooth cavities are a common dental issue, but you can lower your risk by following these dental hygiene remedies. 

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss daily, as recommended by the Australian Dental Association.
  • Reduce your intake of sugary and acidic foods, such as sweets, candy, juice, soda, and refined carbohydrates.
  • Limit snacking between meals.
  • Consider getting dental sealants.

You can consider consuming certain foods that can help keep cavities at bay:

  • Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables
  • Calcium-rich foods
  • Xylitol sugarless chewing gum
  • Unsweetened black or green tea
  • Fluoridated water

Additionally, visit your dentist at least twice a year for regular teeth cleaning & fluoride treatment. This allows for early treatment of any issues and helps prevent future dental problems.

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