Tooth decay is a slow, destructive process. In its earliest stages, a decayed tooth, is easily treatable. If left untreated it will lead to dental infection and tooth loss. The best defense against tooth decay is good oral hygiene along with regular dental visits. These routine dental visits will give your dentist the ability to detect tooth decay in its earliest stages.
Signs Of Tooth Decay
-Pain/Discomfort. Having any kind of oral or tooth pain is not normal. It is usually a sign that something is wrong.
-Tooth Sensitivity. This can be due to a variety of things but it is important to note the type of sensitivity present. Is it sensitive to hot temperatures, cold temperatures, or both? Is it sensitive to sugary foods? Is it sensitive to acidic foods? If the tooth or teeth are sensitive to most or all of the questions posed than it is cause for concern.
-Persistent Bad Breath (Halitosis). Bad breath can be caused by many things like the foods we eat, periodontal disease, and systemic disease (like diabetes). Tooth decay can also present itself with a persistent malodor due to the bacteria present in tooth decay.
Tooth Decay Treatment
Treatment of tooth decay usually takes two routes. One is when it is detected early enough to see if it will reverse itself through remineralization and the other is restoring the tooth to its natural form and function.
-Remineralization. Very shallow cavities in our teeth can sometimes fix themselves with a little help. These cavities must only be in the outer layer of our teeth (enamel). Once it passes theough this layer the tooth decay will not reverse itself. The repair process is known as remineralization. Application of fluoride to the teeth can reverse the process of early tooth decay. This is usually done using a fluoride supplement or through application at a dental office. Fluoride can be harmful at high levels so it is important to follow your dentist’s advice.
-Dental Restoration. Once the tooth decay enters the underlying layers of a tooth it is time for a dental restoration to restore the form and function of the teeth. Restorations can include dental amalgam, dental bonding, and dental crowns. Dental crowns (can be porcelain or gold) are necessary when the tooth decay is extensive.
-Root Canal Therapy. This treatment will be necessary if the tooth decay has entered the “nerve center” of the tooth. This allows the dentist to save the tooth preserving it for future use. Once a tooth receives a root canal it is generally recommended that a dental crown be placed.
-Tooth Extraction. If a patient decides to forego root canal therapy or the decay is so extensive that it is not able to be restored, the only option is to remove the tooth (or what is left of that tooth). This is usually a last resort option.
Tooth Decay Conclusion
It is important to remember that tooth decay is preventable and even if it does arise it can be treated with minimal care. The key is early diagnosis. The only way to diagnose tooth decay early is through regular dental examinations and routine radiographs. At the first sign of tooth decay call your dentist to evaluate the situation.