What is tooth decay?

When you hear the words tooth decay, it's essentially another term for cavities. You have an infection growing in your teeth caused by bacteria in the mouth. Everyone has bacteria in their mouth, some good, some bad. The ones that cause cavities or tooth decay are the bad ones.

What causes dental decay?

Dental decay occurs when the amount of bacteria in your mouth, or rather the damage caused by the bacteria, is greater than your teeth's ability to reform the outer parts, called the enamel. Everybody has bacteria in their mouth and one of the most common causes of tooth decay is bacteria.

What are the signs of tooth decay?

On the surface, tooth decay is often undetectable when small. This is one of the reasons we take x-rays, to spot tooth decay at an earlier stage. Tooth decay often starts in places such as the spaces right in between the teeth which we can't see very well. If tooth decay progresses, we can see it because teeth will either change color or parts of the tooth will change shape or break off. If it gets really bad, holes in your teeth will start to appear.

What are the effects of tooth decay?

One of the most significant negative effects of tooth decay is that it starts to break down your teeth. You'll see holes forming in your teeth, or parts of the tooth become soft or rough. Healthy teeth are strong, solid, and smooth. When tooth decay is present, they'll feel rough or bumpy, or if taken to the extreme, parts of the tooth will start to fall away or crumble.

Can tooth decay lead to other complications?

Tooth decay can definitely lead to other complications if not treated. It can result in loss of the tooth when taken to the extreme. At an earlier stage, it can damage or infect a part of the tooth. If caught early, we can sometimes just remove the infected part and save the majority of your tooth.

Can tooth decay return to normal?

Unfortunately, once tooth decay starts, we can't reverse it. The decayed part of the tooth has to be scooped or drilled out. In these cases, a part of the tooth will be missing and to fix the problem, we have to put in a filling or, if the tooth decay was present on multiple surfaces, a crown or even a root canal may be needed.

What are some treatments for tooth decay?

The treatment for tooth decay depends on the stage at which we catch it and how much decay is present. If there's not much decay, we can remove the infected part of your tooth and put a filling in. If there's a lot of decay or multiple surfaces of your tooth are infected, then a crown may be indicated. If the decay is deep into your tooth, a root canal may be needed. Unfortunately, if tooth decay takes over a majority of your tooth, the tooth can't be saved and needs to be taken out. There are, however, options to replace your tooth like implants or bridges.

How do I stop tooth decay from spreading?

The best way to prevent tooth decay from spreading or even starting is to maintain your oral hygiene at home. This means regular brushing and flossing, and rinsing your mouth out after you eat or drink anything, especially sugary foods. The bacteria in your mouth love to eat sugar. When there's more sugar present in your mouth, the bacteria multiply and grow in size, leading to tooth decay.

When should I see a dentist about treating tooth decay?

If you suspect that you have tooth decay, you should see your dentist as soon as possible. Signs to look out for include teeth sensitivity to biting, hot, or cold. You might also experience pain spontaneously or when eating or drinking. If any of these apply to you, please call our office as soon as possible. You can reach us at (916) 848-2145.