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What You Need to Know about Tooth Decay


Posted on 11/25/2015 by Brandon Cooley
A diagram of a silver filling inside a patients tooth.We've probably all heard that brushing and flossing are crucial in order to prevent tooth decay, but how much do you really know about decay? Why is it such a big deal? Isn't it something that only happens to kids, or do adults need to be concerned, as well? Find out everything you need to know about tooth decay, and use this information to create a plan to keep your teeth safe.

Tooth Decay Basics

Simply put, tooth decay is dental damage that results from bacteria in the mouth producing acids that eat away at the tooth surface. This can result in a cavity, which is a hole in the tooth, and when it isn't treated, the problem can cause infection, severe pain, and possibly even loss of the tooth. Food and bacteria cause decay by creating plaque, a sticky substance that will form on your teeth and contain a ton of bacteria. As the bacteria eat the sugars in the food you consume, they make acids that attack your teeth, destroying the enamel and causing decay.

Diagnosing Tooth Decay

While you might suspect a cavity if you are suddenly experiencing tooth pain, a discolored spot on your tooth, or soreness of the gums around the problem tooth, your dentist is the only one that will be able to actually diagnose tooth decay. To do this, he or she will ask you questions about your symptoms and will conduct a thorough examination of your teeth with dental instruments, as many cavities can be detected using dental probes to look for signs of weakness. Your dentist might also need to take X-ray images of your teeth in order to find the source of the decay, especially if it can't be seen with the naked eye.

Preventing Tooth Decay Before it Starts

The good news when it comes to tooth decay is that it is entirely preventable, and you can take steps to ensure that decay doesn't affect your mouth. Regular dental hygiene is essential, and it is important to see your dentist for checkups every six months. Be sure to avoid snacking before bedtime so that cavity-causing food isn't left on your teeth all night, and avoid foods that are high in sugar or are especially sticky. You should also work to establish healthy dental hygiene habits with your kids early on.

Treating Tooth Decay

The tooth decay treatment option that your dentist recommends will vary depending on the severity of the problem. If you make an appointment at the first sign of trouble, or if your dentist notices a problem before you even do, you could stop the cavity in its tracks. Fluoride treatments and brushing with toothpaste that contains fluoride could stop the progression of the decay.

However, if the decay has progressed through your enamel, treatment may be needed in one of the following forms:

•  Fillings. If a cavity has formed, a filling will be used to fill in a hole after the decay has been removed. This will restore your tooth to its original shape and function.
•  Crown or cap. Severe decay can damage the structure of your tooth, and a crown can replace the damaged or missing portion.
•  Root canal therapy. Infection in the pulp of the tooth will require a root canal to remove the diseased area.
•  Extraction. When a tooth is so severely damaged that a root canal isn't an option, it may need to be completely removed.

If you are concerned that you might be experiencing tooth decay - or if it has simply been a while since your last dental visit - contact our office to set up an appointment.
WHAT OUR PATIENTS ARE SAYING:
As a patient, three things stand out to me about Cooley Smiles - the great quality dental work, the cleanliness of the facility and thorough follow up. These are major differentiators that I look for in dental providers and to-date, I've always been satisfied with my experience. Thanks for the great patient care, Cooley Smiles team!

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