Tooth Decay (dental Caries)
tooth decay (dental caries) can occur when acid is produced from plaque, which builds up on your teeth.
If plaque is allowed to build up, it can lead to further problems, such as dental caries (holes in the teeth), gum disease or dental abscesses, which are collections of pus at the end of the teeth or in the gums.
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Symptoms of tooth decay
Tooth decay may not cause any pain. However, if you have dental caries you might have:
toothache – either continuous pain keeping you awake or occasional sharp pain without an obvious cause
tooth sensitivity – you may feel tenderness or pain when eating or drinking something hot, cold or sweet
grey, brown or black spots appearing on your teeth, bad breath, an unpleasant taste in your mouth.
Seeing a dentist
Visit your dentist regularly, so early tooth decay can be treated as soon as possible and the prevention of decay can begin. Tooth decay is much easier and cheaper to treat in its early stages. Dentists can usually identify tooth decay and further problems with a simple examination or X-ray.
It’s also important to have regular dental check-ups. Adults should have a check-up at least once every two years and children under the age of 18 should have a check-up at least once a year.
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Treatments for tooth decay
Treatment of tooth decay depends on how advanced it is.
For early stage tooth decay –your dentist will talk to you about the amount of sugar in your diet and the times you eat. They may apply a fluoride gel, varnish or paste to the area.
Fluoride helps to protect teeth by strengthening the enamel, making teeth more resistant to the acids from plaque that can cause tooth decay.
Your dentist may discuss a filling or crown with you –this involves removing the dental decay, offering local anesthesia to numb the tooth and filling the hole.
If tooth decay has spread to the pulp (in the center of the tooth, containing blood and nerves) –treatment may be in a process known as root canal treatment.
If the tooth is so badly damaged that it can’t be restored –it may need to be removed. Your dentist may be able to replace the tooth with a partial denture, bridge or implant.
cost of dental treatment
The cost of private dental treatment varies between practices, as there is no set charge. If you choose to see a private dentist, make sure to agree the cost before having treatment.
Preventing tooth decay
Although tooth decay is a common problem, it’s often entirely preventable. The best way to avoid tooth decay is to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible. For example, you should:
visit your dentist regularly –your dentist will decide how often they need to see you based on the condition of your mouth, teeth and gums.
cut down on sugary and starchy food and drinks, particularly between meals or within an hour of going to bed – some medications can also contain sugar, so it’s best to look for sugar-free alternatives where possible.
look after your teeth and gums –brushing your teeth properly with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, using floss and an inter-dental brush at least once a day.
avoid smoking or drinking alcohol excessively – tobacco can interfere with saliva production, which helps to keep your teeth clean, and alcohol can contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel.
see your dentist if you have a persistently dry mouth –this may be as a result of certain medicines, treatment or medical conditions