Tooth decay is damage that occurs to your tooth when bacteria in your mouth create acids that eat a hole in the tooth. This hole, a cavity, if left untreated, can cause pain, infection, and the loss of the tooth itself. The larger the hole, the worse the damage is.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is caused by a combination of bacteria and food that you eat. Bacteria live in the plaque that is constantly forming on your teeth. These bacteria thrive on the sugars in the food you eat. The bacteria turn the sugars into acids that attack the teeth for 20 minutes or more after eating. Eventually, these acids destroy tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay.
What Makes My Tooth Decay Worse?
These things increase the speed of tooth decay:
- Not brushing or flossing
- Irregular dental visits
- Sugary foods and carbohydrates
- Lack of fluoride
- Lack of saliva to protect your teeth by washing away bacteria
- Smoking or using smokeless tobacco
- Lack of minerals in the teeth
What Are the Symptoms of Tooth Decay?
There usually aren’t any symptoms until it is too late. Tooth decay quietly sneaks up on you and creates a cavity without warning. Then you may notice:
- Swelling in the gums
- Bad breath
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Black, white, gray, or brown spots on your teeth
Of course, a toothache is the most common symptom. This signals that the call needs to be made to the dentist. Even if the pain goes away for a while, the decay will continue to grow. If you don’t seek professional treatment, the cavity will enlarge, and you may lose the tooth.
How Is Tooth Decay Treated?
First, your dentist will diagnose the cause of your toothache or other symptom. Some of the steps he or she will use are:
- Collect medical and dental history information
- Check your teeth with a small pointed tool and a mirror
- Take X-rays of your teeth
Then, your dentist will choose the best treatment for the seriousness of your condition. If decay is just starting and hasn’t gone through the enamel yet, fluoride treatments and special toothpaste may be all that is required. However, if the enamel has been eaten through, you will need a filling. If the decay is severe enough, a crown may be required to replace part of your tooth.
A root canal or extraction may be done when the decay reaches the nerve or pulp of your tooth and becomes infected from a large cavity.
What Should I Do for a Toothache?
Toothaches are quite uncomfortable and only progress in getting worse. Call your dentist immediately to schedule an appointment. While you are waiting to see your dentist, you can use an ice pack on the outside of your cheek to reduce swelling and take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
If you don’t have a dentist, or can’t get in, contact us at Osborne Family Dental in North Canton. We have emergency care available to help you. We will be glad to answer all your questions and show you what options are available to treat your problem.