What is dental decay?

Dental decay is an infectious disease that can lead to cavities (small holes) in the tooth structure that compromises both the structure and the health of the tooth. Dental decay is caused by bacteria producing acids from the consumption of sugars. The acid can cause local demineralisation of the tooth surface. If damage to the tooth is not significant, the protective qualities of saliva may stop further demineralisation of the tooth and remineralisation will occur. Also, proper oral hygiene reduces the development and progression of decay.

 

Symptoms of tooth decay

The patient usually complains of a painful tooth that is made worse when eating hot, cold or sugary drinks. There may be discolouration or holes present on affected tooth, which may cause annoying impaction of small food pieces. If the tooth has become infected, the patient’s face may appear swollen on the affected side.

 

How we detect tooth decay?

The early sign of dental decay is a chalky white appearance of the enamel surface. If the decay progress, the damaged enamel surface will become dark brown or black. A late sign of dental decay is holes or cavities in the affected tooth. The affected tooth is probed to check the depth of the hole. If the tooth is painful when probed, the tooth is still alive. If not, the tooth is not vital any more. Your dentist will use dental x-ray to confirm the presents and extension of the lesion.

 

Is it bad?...

The prognosis of dental decay depends on the health of the patient, oral health practices and the extent of cavity. Early signs of dental decay may be reversed with minor dental intervention and improved oral hygiene. If dental decay has lead to holes in the tooth, the lost tooth structure must be filled and rebuilt with dental materials. If there is significant damage to the tooth and signs of infection, the tooth should be removed and the infection treated. If much of the tooth structure is lost and the tooth is vulnerable to infection, the tooth may need root canal treatment. If a significant amount of tooth structure is lost, the tooth may have a crown placed over it. The final stage will be to remove the tooth if it is untreatable. The patient may then chose to have an implant (a fake tooth put into the jaw) or partial denture, depending on oral health and financial status.