Tooth decay affects most people at some point in their lives. It is caused by the acids in certain fruits like oranges or the acids created by bacteria that live in the mouth. These acids erode teeth enamel, which is the outer layer of teeth. Enamel is also the strongest part of the body and it is designed to withstand a lot.
When a person practices poor oral hygiene or does things that put their oral health in jeopardy like consuming lots of sugary treats, their teeth are left to withstand these attacks for prolonged periods. Over time, the person’s enamel wears down and tiny holes called cavities develop on their teeth. If left untreated, tooth decay will continue until it exposes the pulp chamber. This is where a tooth’s nerve and blood vessels are housed. Once the pulp chamber is exposed, the tooth will eventually be infected if it is not treated.
Common signs of tooth decay
The early stage of tooth decay often goes unnoticed since there are no symptoms. That’s a pity since tooth decay can be reversed at this stage with fluoride treatments. The more advanced stages of tooth erosion are easier to notice. Here are some of the signs and symptoms you should be looking for:
- Toothache: Toothaches occur for a reason. It is the way your body lets you know something is not quite right where the pain is coming from. Toothaches are often a sign of a tooth being damaged by decay or something else. A trip to a dentist is in order at this point. If the pain is severe, head to an emergency dentist
- Tooth sensitivity: A tooth decaying often leads to increased sensitivity to hot and cold beverages and foods. Enamel being worn down leaves the inner layer of a tooth called the dentin exposed to temperatures in the mouth. Dentin contains tiny nerve endings, leading to increased sensitivity. Sugary food items can also trigger said sensitivity
- Pits or holes in the mouth: Tiny holes or depressions in the mouth are often cavities. These are one of the first symptoms of tooth decay and they can be treated with fillings or composite resins. Treatment with composites leads to the best aesthetics
- White, black or brown stains forming on teeth: Tooth decay can lead to a tooth becoming discolored. The discoloration does not respond to teeth whitening treatments, so the tooth will need to be covered with composite resin or a crown to restore its appearance
- Pain when chewing: Tooth erosion weakens the internal structures of a tooth and that can lead to pain when pressure is applied to the tooth when chewing or when the tooth is touched
Preventing tooth decay
Good oral hygiene is the most effective defense against tooth decay. Brush twice each day, floss a few times a week and use a mouthwash after every brushing session. Regular visits to a dentist should also be part of your dental care routine. The dentist’s expertise and tools like x-rays allow them to detect tooth decay in its early stages.