Try as we might keep our teeth as healthy as possible, it is virtually inevitable that we will experience some degree of dental decay during our lifetime.
Dental decay occurs when the plaque acids produced by bacteria in our mouths start to erode the hard, outer layer of our teeth, known as the enamel. When this happens, it can create a small hole in the enamel that will eventually penetrate through to the softer, middle layer of our teeth known as dentin. Left untreated, there is nothing to stop bacteria continuing to eat away at our teeth until most of the tooth has been destroyed.
Most people assume that decay will always form on the tops of our teeth. However, dental decay does not discriminate and instead will affect any part of the tooth that it has access to. This includes tooth roots, which are often exposed if the patient is also suffering from gum disease, or even around the edges of old cavity fillings that you may have.
Dental decay tends to be most prevalent in children, and in people over the age of 50, the latter being more likely to develop tooth-root based decay. This is because periodontal disease and its effects are more common with advancing age.
When we suffer from tooth decay, we can expect to experience symptoms such as:
Sensitivity when eating or drinking something that is hot, cold or sweet
Sharp, acute tooth pain
Continuous toothache that interrupts sleep
A dark spot appearing on your tooth
Generally, the more severe the decay is, the worse the symptoms are. Seeking diagnosis and treatment as quickly as possible can help alleviate your suffering and prevent the decay from spreading throughout your tooth.
If you are found to have an area of decay, we may recommend that you have a type of treatment known as a cavity filling.
A cavity filling is a procedure that sees your dentist drilling away the decayed part of your tooth and filling it with a material that restores its strength, shape and size. If your dentist offers laser technology, then it is also possible for the laser to be used to remove the area of decay. Once the decay has gone, your dentist can measure the space that needs to be filled and decide which filling material will be most suitable. In some instances, it may be necessary for your dentist to use a base or liner which sits between the pulp of your tooth (the innermost layer) and the filling material. This is usually made from either composite resin, glass ionomer or zinc oxide and eugenol.
There are several different types of filling available. Your dentist will recommend which is most suitable to repair you tooth.