Understanding Tooth Decay and Root Canal Treatment

Understanding Tooth Decay and Root Canal Treatment

Tooth decay refers to changes that may occur to the teeth, generally as a result of a person’s diet and oral hygiene routine. Technically, tooth decay refers to the loss of mineral from the teeth, which may manifest as a spot on the tooth of a different lighter or darker colour.

Ultimately, it may result in a cavity in the tooth as the outer layers are worn away. If the cavity penetrates deeper into the centre of the tooth, then the nerves in the dental pulp at the tooth’s centre may be more vulnerable to irritation or infection. Hot and cold food and drink may cause pain. Pain may also occur upon chewing or spontaneously.

What causes tooth decay?

Tooth decay is a result of acid in the mouth that dissolves the teeth, resulting in mineral loss. This acid occurs through an interaction between bacteria and sugars; sugar keeps the bacteria thriving and when the bacteria consume sugar, this results in acid levels being higher.

Bacteria are present in the dental plaque that may build up on the teeth, especially around the gumline and in hard-to-reach places that do not necessarily receive the level of attention they require while we are brushing or flossing. Interestingly, saliva plays a protective function in the mouth, and can help to fight this bacteria and repair missing minerals from the tooth.

It is worth noting that baby teeth are more prone to tooth decay. This relates to the habits of children and also the thinner layer of enamel that baby teeth have.

How can I prevent tooth decay from occurring?

The best approach to reducing tooth decay should be developed in conjunction with your local dentist. Your dental specialist will be able to consider your circumstances, the health of your teeth and your medical history to develop a specific oral hygiene routine for home, establish regular check-ups, recommend appropriate toothpaste, floss, rinse and toothbrushes, and more.

However, a healthy well-balanced diet is critical to preventing the development of decay in the first place. Here are a few steps you can follow at home to reduce the risk of tooth decay developing and spreading:

  • Consume food and drinks with lower sugar content. This includes obvious high-sugar foods such as cake, chocolate, lollies, and similar foods. However, also avoid those foods that are less obviously high in sugar, such as fruit juice or yoghurt with added sugar. Break habits such as adding sugar to your coffee and tea.
  • Reduce snacking behaviour on sugary foods and attempt to eat sweet foods and drinks around mealtimes, as this will reduce their potential to cause tooth decay.
  • Drink plenty of water, especially water from the tap that contains fluoride. Water with fluoride can help to strengthen teeth and it can also keep saliva levels healthy. Avoid dehydration and be aware of other causes of a dry mouth, such as certain medicines or health conditions.
  • Follow a dentist-endorsed oral hygiene routine at home, which will include brushing twice a day and flossing once a day.
  • Consider chewing sugar-free gum to clean the teeth and increase saliva levels.
  • Consult a dentist to see if you require fissure sealants to close off the deep grooves in your teeth.

How can a dentist help to fix my tooth decay?

Often, it is when tooth decay affects us that we start considering our oral health habits with the benefits of hindsight. However, once tooth decay has set in, often even the very best dental habits at home will not be enough to correct the tooth decay that has occurred.

In cases of minor tooth decay, your dental specialist may be able to use fluoride to aid the healing process. By visiting the dentist in a timely manner on a six-monthly schedule of check ups and cleans, you ensure that your dental professional can detect emerging tooth decay early and provide a simple treatment. They can also clean your teeth thoroughly, reducing the conditions that cause decay.

In cases where decay is more advanced, X-rays may be required to detect decay that is not immediately apparent from examination. If tooth decay has led to a cavity, a filling may be required, in which your dental practitioner removes the damaged tooth and fills it with an inert filling material.

If decay manages to reach the tooth’s dental pulp in its centre, then a root canal procedure may be required This involves removing the damaged tooth, and filling the centre of the tooth with a root filling. The process aims to defend and maintain your natural teeth.

Shell Cove Dental is here to provide assistance if you’re dealing with issues such as tooth decay, toothache, or other dental concerns. We offer various dental services, including Invisalign, veneers, children’s dentistry, dental implants, and more.