What is tooth decay?

You may also have heard it called dental decay or dental caries. Over time, symptoms of tooth decay can include:

  • toothache
  • pain when eating or drinking
  • visible discoloured spots on your teeth

If left untreated, a build up of plaque could lead to complications of tooth decay such as gum disease (gingivitis) or a dental infection. Regular dental checks can help your dentist spot signs of tooth decay early and identify any cavities (holes or damage in the teeth). Tooth decay is much easier to treat successfully in its early stages, sometimes without the need for an injection.

Causes of tooth decay:

Your mouth is full of bacteria, which combine with small food particles and saliva to form a sticky film known as plaque, which builds up on your teeth.

When you consume food and drink high in carbohydrates (sugary or starchy), bacteria in plaque turns carbohydrates into acid. Over time, acid in plaque begins to break down your tooth’s surface. Left untreated, plaque can completely destroy the outside of the tooth and expose nerves inside.

decay pic

Once this happens, you will have toothache. When a deep enough  hole is created in your tooth by this process you will need to have this restored with a filling.

So you are more likely to get tooth decay if you don’t clean off the plaque ( brushing twice daily/flossing) or if you have a diet high in sugar. Your dentist/hygienist can analyse your diet and also advise on how well you are cleaning as well as other factors to assess your decay risk.