Prevention Is Better Than Cure!
Dental decay can be incredibly painful and at its last stages it can cause a person to lose their teeth. There are certain complications of tooth decay that can also be life-threatening.
Dental decay occurs when enamel, the most outer layer of the teeth, breaks down and degrades and this happens because of consistent acid attacks on the teeth. The acid is produced as a bi-product by natural bacteria within our mouths.
Bacteria proliferate as ‘plaque’, a sticky film on the teeth that comes from food debris and poor oral hygiene. Brushing daily removes the plaque, but if it is not removed, it can harden into tartar.
The acid emitted by the bacteria continues to degrade the enamel, eventually causing decay which works itself through the layers of the tooth. Understanding the process of dental decay is useful so that you can keep on top of your oral health and work with your dentist to prevent it progressing to a point where a tooth is lost.
The 6 stages of dental decay:
1. White Patches
In the earliest stages of tooth decay the tooth has small white patches on the enamel. Those small white patches tell us there is calcium and mineral loss, as well as plaque build-up. At this stage, bacteria continue to generate acids and the demineralisation progresses. At this early stage of decay the process can be stopped, or even reversed. Certain treatments and oral hygiene advice can help stop decay progressing any further past this stage.
2. The Tooth Weakens
The tooth begins to weaken as the enamel is deteriorating past the initial surface level. The degrading process causes enough damage at this stage to weaken the tooth, to the point that it could break from pressure, at which point you should seek quick advice quickly from your Kent Smile Studio dentist.
3. Dentin Attacked
When decay progresses further the next layer of the tooth, dentin, can be attacked. Dentin has nerves in it and this stage of dental decay can be painful. The acid attacking the enamel progresses to attack the dentin, and once enough of it has deteriorated, a cavity is formed. This stage usually requires a filling from your dentist to remove the infection, strengthen the tooth and prevent the cavity from getting any worse.
4. Pulp Infection
If the enamel and dentin has deteriorated enough, decay reaches the pulp of the tooth and causes infection. The pulp is alive with nerves and soft-tissue and so you are likely to feel a lot of pain during this stage of decay. The pain comes from the nerves and cells of the tooth dying, causing a throbbing pain. Your Chatham and Maidstone dentist is likely to recommend root canal treatment at this stage of decay to try and save the tooth.
5. Abscess Risk
If the decaying pulp stage is not treated, then the infection in the pulp can travel to the root of the tooth. Pus is formed and creates an abscess which can be dangerous. If the tooth and the tissues surrounding it are infected and you have an abscess you will feel very unwell. You will feel heat around the infected area, swelling, your glands will be swollen, you may have a fever and feel unwell and you may even taste an unpleasant taste in your mouth as the pus drains. If you suspect you have an abscess you must seek emergency dental treatment as the infection could travel to your blood, which can be fatal.
Either during abscess treatment, or after, the tooth may need to be extracted. It can sometimes be saved with root canal but, sometimes it simply needs to be removed to prevent any further infection or damage to the mouth.
Treatments For Dental Decay
Your dentist will seek to prevent any decay occurring with appropriate hygiene education and support provided during regular appointments, both with the dentist and hygienist. During any early stages of decay we can recommend a variety of protecting treatments such as fluoride varnish, and supportive dental products that can help stop decay spreading further. At different stages of dental decay we have white and amalgam fillings, inlays, onlays, crowns, root canal treatment and other treatments available to help you avoid losing the tooth. In the event you require tooth extraction, we can ensure the procedure is as comfortable as possible for you. We also have a wide variety of restorative options to help you avoid keeping a gap in your smile, should you ultimately lose a tooth.
Can Your Lifestyle Affect Dental Decay?
Unfortunately bad habits and a bad diet will result in dental issues, even with an excellent daily hygiene regime. Smoking is known to cause tooth staining and make you more likely to suffer from cavities and gum disease. A diet high in sugar and acidic foods is also likely to cause problems with the teeth. For the best decay prevention, your diet should reflect the effort you put into your day to day oral hygiene.
Book An Appointment For A Checkup At Your Dentists in Maidstone and Chatham
Maintaining good oral hygiene is an important part of avoiding dental decay occurring, or progressing. Visiting us regularly is an important part of ensuring any signs of decay are caught early and treated in time. Our clinic is passionate about prevention over cure, and we will always do everything we can to help your teeth remain in the best possible condition.
Please give our friendly team a call on 01634 683123 or 01622 754662 to make an appointment at a time to suit you. Whether you’re visiting for a checkup, or about a particular dental issue, we have a wide range of treatments, tools and technology available to ensure you get excellent oral health treatment.