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Tooth decay: FAQs

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Dental problems, like a toothache, tooth decay, and gum disease – have plagued mankind since the beginning of time. (It’s true. For a quick history of oral hygiene practices since 5000 BCE, check out this blog.) Unfortunately, tooth decay remains a common problem today, albeit one that is both treatable and preventable. 

What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay occurs when the bacteria found in plaque feed on the sugars in your food, thereby producing acids that damage your teeth. This acid eats away at the enamel of your teeth before decaying the dentin beneath. If left untreated, the acid will eventually reach and damage the nerves. The holes in your teeth caused by tooth decay are commonly called cavities or caries. Untreated, tooth decay can lead to painful infection and even tooth loss.

What are the symptoms of tooth decay?

Tooth decay or cavities can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms, including:

  • Discolouration of the teeth (black, grey, or brown spots)
  • Visible holes in your teeth
  • Acute or chronic pain
  • Tooth sensitivity, often when eating cold or hot foods
  • An unpleasant taste in your mouth
  • Foul-smelling breath

It’s important to note that in the early stages of tooth decay, you may not experience any of the symptoms listed above. That’s why it’s important to visit your dentist or oral hygienist for regular check ups.

How does tooth decay affect my overall health?

Tooth decay often causes toothache or tooth sensitivity. Not only does this often leave you grumpy and irritable, it also affects your ability to properly chew your food, which in turn inhibits digestion. Besides making it more difficult for your body to absorb important nutrients, poor chewing habits can contribute to a host of related digestive problems and discomforts. 

Tooth decay can also cause discolouration of the teeth, which ruins the aesthetics of your smile and can lower your self-esteem and confidence.

Left untreated, tooth decay can lead to further problems, such as abscesses and gum disease.

Does eating certain foods lead to tooth decay?

Eating too much high-sugar or processed foods, especially those that tend to stick to your teeth or become lodged between teeth, can make tooth decay more likely to occur. Examples of these sorts of foods include sugary breakfast cereals, dried fruit, cakes and biscuits, chewy candies, bread, or sweetened dairy products. However, properly cleaning your teeth after eating can help eliminate this risk. Other factors beyond the food you eat can contribute to the likelihood of tooth decay. These include poor oral hygiene practices (such as going to bed without brushing your teeth), receding gums, smoking, frequent snacking, and a dry mouth. 

Is tooth decay treatable? 

Yes, there are various tooth decay treatments available today. If you catch tooth decay early enough, a simple fluoride tooth decay treatment may be all you need. Your dentist or oral hygienist will also advise you on how to improve your oral hygiene habits and alter your diet to prevent further problems.

If the tooth decay has formed cavities or caries, your dentist can repair these by removing the damaged tooth tissue and putting in a filling or fitting a crown. For more serious cases, where the decay has damaged the tooth nerve, a root canal treatment may be required. If a tooth is unsalvageable, your dentist may remove the tooth and discuss replacing it with a dental implant or a bridge. 

Is tooth decay preventable?

The good news is that tooth decay is usually easily preventable. Avoid high-sugar foods and maintain a good oral hygiene routine. Brush your teeth well twice a day and floss daily.

It’s equally important to visit a dental hygienist regularly. Make sure that you choose an experienced dental hygienist who will be able to spot the very early signs of tooth decay, enabling you to take action before more invasive tooth decay treatment becomes necessary.

Book an appointment with one of our highly experienced dental hygienists at the Metamorphosis Oral Hygiene Clinic to get your teeth screened for signs of tooth decay or gum disease. Call us on 020 3828 7116 or email smile@metamorphosisorthodontics.com 

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