Everything You Need to Know About Tooth Decay
Have you ever had a toothache and wondered just why you were going through such a terrible experience? You’re not alone. Many people don’t give too much thought to the health of their teeth until something goes wrong.
By the time you’re experiencing tooth pain, you may be deep in the clutches of tooth decay. But what is tooth decay, exactly? And why is it such a literal pain to deal with?
We’ve got the answers you need to keep your teeth healthy and pain-free. Here’s the lowdown on tooth decay, from how to spot it, what causes it, and what you can do to treat it.
What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is damage to your tooth’s enamel or surface. Your tooth’s enamel protects the deeper layer of your tooth. If the enamel damage is severe, a hole may form in your tooth. This hole is commonly known as a cavity.
Minor tooth decay may not be painful, but if it reaches a more severe stage, it can affect the inner pulp of your tooth, where blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue can be damaged. This can be extremely painful and can even lead to tooth loss.
Signs of Tooth Decay
Often, people don’t notice tooth decay until they are experiencing pain in their teeth. This may be a pain when eating or a general toothache. Early tooth decay may not include pain, but you may notice brown or yellow stains on your teeth.
Cavities, sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks, and abscesses indicate tooth decay has progressed and needs to be treated immediately. Ignoring these signs of tooth decay can lead to further pain, severe infections, and tooth loss.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that live inside your mouth. When these bacteria feed on the sugars in the foods you eat, they create a sticky substance called plaque that can build up on your teeth.
Plaque that isn’t removed hardens into tartar, a hard substance that can develop both above and below your gum line that is very difficult to remove. Bacteria in plaque and tartar produce acids that damage your teeth.
Who Experiences Tooth Decay?
While anyone can experience tooth decay, some people are more likely to suffer from it. Young children who haven’t learned to brush their teeth properly are at risk, as are older adults with receding gum lines that expose more of their teeth to bacteria.
People who don’t brush and floss regularly are also at risk of tooth decay. Those with low saliva production may also be at increased risk of tooth decay because saliva helps wash away the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
How Can I Tell If I Have Tooth Decay?
If you don’t have obvious signs of tooth decay but are worried that you might be at risk, the best thing to do is to visit your dentist for regular checkups. Your dentist can check all of your teeth, including the parts that you may not be able to see for yourself, to make sure that there’s no decay forming.
If you are experiencing signs of tooth decay, it’s important to seek dental treatment as soon as possible. Mild decay may be treatable, but if left untreated, the decay could lead to dangerous infections or the loss of your tooth.
How Can I Treat Tooth Decay?
Prevention of tooth decay is always preferable to treatment, and it’s often easier to prevent decay than it is to repair it. But if you need to treat tooth decay, your dentist has several options depending on the severity of the level of decay.
- Fluoride treatments may help reverse early-stage tooth decay by allowing the tooth’s enamel to repair itself.
- Fillings are an option when decay has progressed to forming a cavity. The decayed part of the tooth is removed and replaced with a filling material.
- Root canals are often used when the damage to a tooth is more severe but still repairable. Root canals are done when damage to the tooth’s pulp has occurred. Your dentist will drill out the damaged pulp and tooth material and replace it with filling and possibly a crown or tooth cover.
- Extractions are the last resort when it comes to treating tooth decay. A tooth that can’t be repaired will be extracted, and your dentist may suggest having an implant or bridge put in to replace the missing tooth.
Trust Carrie Muzny, DDS, With Your Smile
No one likes to think about tooth decay, but with regular brushing, flossing, and dental checkups, you can keep your teeth healthy and strong. Don’t wait until you have a toothache or sensitive teeth to visit your dentist.
For years, Dr. Carrie Muzny DDS and her dental team have been that trustworthy partner for patients in the Woodlands, Benders Landing, Woodforest, Spring, and the Conroe/Montgomery area. Using our abundant knowledge and experience in painless procedures, robust teamwork, and cutting-edge dental technology, we deliver exceptional dental care and customer service so you can feel confident and comfortable walking into their office every six months.