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Tooth Decay – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Pictures

Written by Dr.Mary

What is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is also referred to as cavities. Cavities or tooth decay are areas in the hard surface of teeth that have been damaged permanently. These areas progress into tiny holes or openings. Tooth decay is created by numerous facts, such as mouth bacteria, not cleaning teeth properly, snacking a lot as well as sipping on drinks that are sugary.

Tooth decay is one of the world’s more common problems with health. This is particularly common in teenagers, children as well as older adults. Anyone who has any teeth can get tooth decay including babies.

If the cavities of tooth decay are not treated, they will only get larger and then affect the deeper layers of the teeth. Tooth decay also can lead to infection, toothaches that are severe as well as even in some case tooth loss. Dental visits every six (6) month along with good dental hygiene with brushing and flossing will in most cases prevent cavities and decay of teeth.

Tooth Decay Symptoms

The symptoms and signs of tooth decay and cavities are various and depend on their location as well as extent. Whenever a cavity is only starting, the individual may not have any symptoms. But the dentist is normally able to see decay when it is starting and will recommend steps to keep tooth decay from getting any worse.

As the decay or cavities get larger, it can cause the following symptoms or signs:

  • Sensitivity of tooth
  • Toothache
  • Holes or pits in the teeth are visible
  • Pain that is mild to sharp when drinking or eating anything hot, cold or sweet
  • Pain when biting down
  • Pus around the tooth, particularly when pressing on the gums

An individual might not know that a cavity is developing, so regular visits to the dentist is the best way to protect against tooth decay and cavities. If an individual is experiencing mouth pain or toothache – common signs of cavities – see the dentist as quickly as possible.

When a cavity is treated prior to causing any pain, it probably will not need any widespread treatment. This is the reason why it is so important to have regular checkups and cleanings by the dentist even when the mouth feels ok. By the time an individual notices any symptoms, the damage is already getting worse.

Tooth Decay Causes

Cavities are created due to the decaying teeth – which is a process occurring over time. It starts with the act of bacteria damaging the enamel or hard surface of the teeth. This starting process can happen without any discomfort that is evident. Decay will then advance to the layers of the teeth that are deeper in the following steps:

Formation of Plaque

The mouth just as other areas of the body contains many kinds of bacteria. Several of these bacteria grow on drinks and food that have certain types of sugar, known as “fermentable carbohydrates”. When these sugars are not cleaned off of the teeth, the bacteria rapidly begin feeding on them and generating acids. This bacteria, food particles, saliva and acid then develops into dental plaque which is a film that is sticky and coats the teeth. By running the tongue along the teeth, it is possible to feel this plaque starting several hours after brushing. This plaque is somewhat rough and is more visible on the back teeth, particularly close to the gums.


Attack of Plaque

The acids in plaque will remove any minerals in the outer, hard enamel in the teeth. This mineral removal causes tiny holes and openings in the enamel – and is the first stage of cavities. Once parts of the enamel are worn away, bacteria together with acid will reach the next layer of the teeth, referred to as dentin. This layer is softer and has less resistance to acid than the enamel.

Continued Destruction

As the decaying of the tooth continues, the acid and bacteria continue marching thru the teeth, moving adjacent to the material of the inner tooth known as pulp that contains blood vessels and nerves. This pulp gets irritated and swollen because of the bacteria. The supporting bone for the tooth can also be affected. When the decay has advanced to this degree, a severe toothache might begin as well as sensitivity, pain when eating or other symptoms and signs. The body will also respond to the invaders by routing white blood cells to fight any infection. This usually results in an abscess of the tooth.

Tooth Decay Treatment

Management of cavities normally depends on the severity and individual situations. Options for treatment include:

Fluoride Treatment

Fluoride is the mineral that aids in helping teeth in repairing the initial stage of loss. If the cavity has just started, a treatment of fluoride will help to restore the enamel of the tooth. Fluoride treatments that are professional have additional fluoride than those found in OTC (over the counter) mouth rinses or toothpaste. Treatments of fluoride might consist of a gel, liquid solution, varnish or foam that is brushed on the teeth or put in a slight tray device that fits the teeth. Every treatment takes several minutes. The dentist might recommend having fluoride treatments on a regular basis.


Fillings contain material that areas of decay in the teeth can be replaced with once damage has become permanent. They are often called restorations and are the major option for treatment when tooth decay has migrated beyond the erosion of the enamel stage. The dentist will drill the decayed parts of the tooth away, then fill any gap left which restores the tooth’s original shape. Filling material consist of a variety of materials, for instance porcelain, composite resins that is tooth-colored or a blend of several diverse materials.


When there is wide-ranging decay or the teeth have become weakened, a crown might be needed to manage the cavity to restore the tooth. Crowns are coverings that are custom-fitted and replace the tooth’s usual crown. The dentist drills all the decayed areas as well as some of the rest of the tooth so as to guarantee a good fit for the crown. Crowns can consist of porcelain, gold or porcelain that is fused to metal.

Root Canals

If decay has reached the material inside the tooth – pulp – a root canal may be needed. This is procedure where the pulp of the tooth is eradicated and substituted with a filling.

Tooth Removal

Often teeth are so decayed they cannot be restored so they need to be removed. A tooth extraction leaves a gap or opening between teeth that lets the other teeth shift, so if possible, the individual may consider having a dental implant or a bridge placed in the space missing a tooth.

Tooth Decay Pictures

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