Tooth Decay

Tooth decay often referred to as caries is the most common cause of toothache. Tooth pain is often experienced once bacteria have “eaten” through the tooth enamel and into the tooth dentine. You should see your dentist immediately to remove the bacteria and restore the tooth otherwise the bacteria may heavily break down the tooth leaving no option but to have a tooth extraction.

Advice: Make an appointment immediately to a dental professional. This will limit further problems.

Tooth Decay FAQs

What is tooth decay?

This is also known as dental caries. It is the destruction of healthy tooth tissue by the bacteria in the mouth and the acids they produce.

What causes tooth decay?

Tooth decay occurs when the tooth surfaces are not effectively cleaned. This allows the bacteria in the mouth to mix with any food that gets left behind, forming plaque (lumps of bacteria). This plaque is very sticky and adheres to the teeth. The bacteria produce acids as they continue to feed on the food and sugars in the plaque, and this causes demineralisation of the outer tooth structure. The longer the plaque is left there, the more time the bacteria have to penetrate into the deeper parts of the tooth. This can lead to a dental cavity, causing tooth pain and discomfort in most cases.

Are tooth cavities caused by dental decay?

Yes. Dental decay if allowed to progress, will weaken the outer surface of the tooth to such an extent, that it will form “holes” in the teeth causing cavities. Once the inner part of the tooth is exposed, cavities can get bigger and bigger as the tooth is not as strong in these inner layers. This can lead to pain and in severe cases, further infection and swelling, if left untreated.

Can tooth decay cause toothache?

Yes. It is the most common cause of toothache. As the outer layer of enamel is demineralised and lost, the dentine is exposed and cavitated. The dentine is in direct contact with the nerve of the tooth so anything hot, cold or sweet placed in this area will cause a lot of sensitivity and pain.

How is tooth decay treated?

Early tooth decay which is still in the enamel and has been caught early (by regular visits to the dentist) can potentially be remineralised by good oral hygiene and the use of fluoride varnishes/gels/mouthwashes/toothpastes to help aid the remineralisation and strengthening of the outer tooth layers.

If the tooth decay has allowed to get a lot deeper and has formed a cavity, dental fillings will be needed to help remove the affected tooth structure and replace it with a filling material. These fillings can be either metal (silver-coloured) or resin (white).

How do you prevent tooth decay?

Good oral hygiene methods are key to preventing tooth decay. Regular and effective tooth brushing, flossing and use of fluoride toothpastes will all help prevent tooth decay. Regular visits to the dentist and hygienist will also help detect any signs of early tooth decay so that any potential treatment could be a lot more conservative and less invasive.