Your Oral Health

Tooth Troubles

What are abscessed teeth? What is a root canal and why would I ever need to have one? What are my risks for oral cancer? Have you asked yourself these questions at some point? Or, do you have another oral health question?

The New Brunswick Dental Society understands that many patients have questions about oral health care or dental procedures. That’s why we’re here to help. In this section you’ll find answers to all of your dental health issues. If you don’t find the answer to your question, just ask your dentist. He or she will be happy to provide the answer.

Have a major toothache with throbbing pain and not sure what is causing it? It could be an abscessed tooth.

You may be asking yourself, “What is an abscessed tooth?” It is an infected tooth, usually caused by severe tooth decay. The infection can happen either at the root of the tooth or between the gums and the tooth. This infection is usually in the form of a pus-filled sac.

An abscess at the root can also be caused by injury to a tooth, such as a major blow to the tooth or jaw. An abscess between a tooth and gum usually happens when bacteria and food become trapped in an area that is hard to clean.

When decay reaches the inside or pulp of a tooth, which contains the nerves and blood supply, the pulp dies. The infection in the pulp spreads from the tip of the root to the surrounding bone.

Symptoms of an Abscessed Tooth:

  • A constant ache.
  • Sensitivity to heat and cold, lasting minutes.
  • Throbbing, especially if it occurs with no clear cause and is unrelated to biting or chewing.
  • Pain when biting or chewing, not relieved with over-the-counter pain medication.
  • Redness and swelling of the gums.
  • Tender glands in the neck.
  • Swollen face.
  • A bad taste in your mouth.
  • Unpleasant drainage.
  • An open, draining sore on the side of the gum.

How Does Your Dentist Tell if You Have an Abscessed Tooth?

To determine if you have a dental abscess, your dentist will examine your teeth and usually take X-rays to check for any disease.

The dentist may use ice or an electric tester to check the health of a tooth. Also, a probe may be used to tell if an infected pocket has formed in your gums. If an abscess exists, the probe may release some of the pressure from built-up infection, but the pocket will have to be fully cleaned out to remove pus and debris.

This kind of abscess is usually treated by first draining the infection and then thoroughly cleaning the area. The dentist then smoothes out the root surfaces of the tooth to promote healing and to help keep the infection from recurring. Before doing this procedure, your dentist may inject a local anaesthetic to numb the gum and tooth.

If an abscess is at the root of a tooth, root canal therapy is usually recommended. A general dentist or an endodontist (a specialist in this therapy) may perform a root canal.

Don’t Ignore an Abscess

The symptoms and effects from an abscessed root will not go away until it is treated. An infection that spreads from the tip of the root builds up pressure and destroys the surrounding bone. This destruction continues until the pressure is released by root canal therapy, or until the infection destroys enough bone so that it can drain out near the tooth, creating a gumboil on the tissue.

An abscess between the gums and a tooth will normally heal soon after the abscess has been drained and the root surfaces cleaned. However, the abscess may recur if the area is not kept clean. Your dentist may recommend the use of special tools to make cleaning these areas easier.

Prevention is the Best Course

The best way to prevent an abscess is to visit your dentist twice a year. At these appointments, your dentist will examine your teeth and mouth and check for any decay between the teeth and evaluate the health of your entire mouth.

Are you spending too much money on mouthwash, breath mints and other odour-killing treatments because you are worried about your breath?

You’re not alone. As many as 75 percent of Canadians worry about their breath at least once a day. Luckily, the solution is relatively simple.

The source of bad breath is actually bacteria, which generally live on the back part of your tongue, between your teeth or on your gums. Bacteria become more powerful when you do anything that reduces the amount of saliva in your mouth, including sleeping, fasting, exercising and even taking some medications.

The good news is that a daily home regimen of proper brushing and flossing, along with effective deep tongue cleaning can help to eliminate bad breath. Using a tongue scraper, make cleaning your tongue part of your daily ritual.

You can keep bad breath from happening in the first place by drinking plenty of water, chewing sugarless gum, and using mouthwash before bedtime. If none of these seem to help, see your dentist. Your dentist has a variety of tools available to evict the bad-breath demon.

If you’ve got a cavity, or your tooth gets knocked out or even broken, the source of your tooth pain is obvious. Unfortunately, some dental pain is much more difficult to diagnose. One seemingly tiny problem — a cracked tooth — can cause intense pain far greater than its size would suggest.

While there are many reasons a tooth cracks, it most commonly happens when you get hit in the mouth, or as a result of clenching or grinding your teeth. Whatever the reason, the result is always the same — you experience sudden, sharp pain whenever you chew.

If you think you might have a cracked tooth, do your best to remember what area the pain is coming from when you chew, and where your teeth are sensitive to heat, cold and sweet, sour or sticky foods. This will help your dentist find and diagnose the source of your pain.

Depending on the size and location of the crack, your dentist may restore the tooth with bonding, or a crown. However, if the pulp becomes damaged or diseased because of the crack, a root canal or even extraction might be necessary. Only your dentist can determine which course of action would be best for your situation.

To prevent your teeth from cracking in the first place, always wear a mouth guard when playing sports, avoid chewing ice, nuts, hardy candy and other hard foods, avoid extreme temperatures and try not to clench or grind your teeth. And of course, visit your dentist for regular check-ups so problems like these can be caught before they become worrisome.

If you’re living with diabetes, you’re used to paying special attention to the health and well-being of your body. But did you know you also need to take good care of your teeth.

As a diabetes patient, you’re twice as likely as a person without diabetes to develop gum disease (periodontal disease). And if you do, the infection will most likely be more severe. In fact, gum disease is often considered the sixth complication of diabetes.

As you already know, diabetes causes a reduction in saliva, which leads to dry mouth. Dry mouth, in turn, can lead to decay. You’re also more susceptible to extensive receding gum lines – a condition that leads to tooth loss.

You need to be especially concerned about gum disease because research has shown that it can make it more difficult for you to control your blood sugar, and can even lead to an increase in your blood sugar levels. In fact, one study showed the periodontal treatment led to a reduction in the need for insulin.

To prevent gum disease, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics, medicated mouth rinses and more frequent cleanings. Here are some other guidelines for keeping your gums and mouth healthy.

  • Make seeing your dentist regularly a priority.
  • Schedule your appointments for the morning hours, when your blood glucose levels are most likely to be under control.
  • Eat and take your medications as usual before your appointment.
  • If your blood sugar is not under control, talk to your dentist and doctor about receiving elective dental care.
  • Keep your dentist informed about your current health status.
  • Since proper daily home care is vital to prevent gum disease, make sure you brush and floss regularly.
  • To keep teeth and gums strong, you should be aware of your blood sugar levels in addition to checking triglycerides and cholesterol levels regularly. These may have a direct correlation on your chances of developing periodontal disease.

If you follow these guidelines, chances are your teeth can coexist peacefully with your diabetes. If at any time you suspect you have a problem, see your dentist immediately. Your health depends on it.

As you get older, you may find yourself experiencing dry mouth more often as your mouth slows its production of saliva. While there are many reasons this can happen, it’s most commonly the result of one of the 400 medications that significantly reduce saliva production or disease.

When dry mouth becomes a chronic problem, it’s called Sjogren’s Syndrome, and, if left untreated, it can damage your teeth. Besides the dry, sticky feeling in your mouth, other symptoms include:

  • difficulty chewing, swallowing, tasting or speaking;
  • bad breath;
  • a burning feeling in the mouth;
  • cracked lips or mouth sores;
  • a dry, irritated tongue;
  • waking up at night due to thirst;
  • inflamed gums or infection in the mouth; and
  • difficulty wearing dentures

There’s no known cure for dry mouth, but your dentist can suggest ways to treat the symptoms and restore moisture. Some remedies include sugar-free candy or gum stimulants and replacing moisture by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.

You went to the dentist today and he said those words no one wants to hear – “These are going to have to come out.” Now you’re panicking.

Relax. It’s nothing to worry about and may not be related to your oral hygiene habits. In fact, there are lots of reasons you may need to have a tooth removed. Sure, it may be because it’s too badly damaged or decayed to save, but it could also simply be because the tooth is causing crowding, an improper bite or preventing another tooth from coming in.

How Is a Tooth Removed?

So what can you expect? First, your dentist will use a local anaesthetic to completely numb the area around the tooth to be removed. Then he’ll gently move the tooth back and forth to loosen it from the socket. To control bleeding afterwards, your dentist will place a gauze pad over the gums where the tooth was removed.

While your dentist will give you specific instructions, the gauze is usually left in place for 30 to 45 minutes after you leave the office. Do not chew on the gauze. Don’t panic if there’s bleeding after you remove the pack – it’s normal. In fact, your dentist will give you directions for what to do if this happens. Eventually, a blood clot will form in the socket.

The Aftermath

Do not be grossed out. This blood clot is part of the natural healing process and should not be disturbed. Here’s how you can protect it:

  • Do not rinse your mouth vigorously, smoke or drink through a straw for 24 hours. These activities create suction in the mouth that could dislodge the clot and delay healing.
  • Do not clean the teeth next to the healing tooth socket for the rest of the day. Gently rinse your mouth after you brush and floss your other teeth.
  • Limit vigorous activity for 24 hours after the extraction. This will reduce bleeding and help the blood clot to form.

After your tooth is removed, you may also notice some swelling. You can help reduce the chipmunk effect by applying an ice bag or a cold, moist cloth compress to your face occasionally.

While on the road to recovery, drink lots of liquids and eat soft, nutritious foods. Avoid alcoholic drinks and hot liquids. As soon as you can chew comfortably, usually the next day, begin eating solid foods. However, don’t try to chew on the side where the tooth was extracted for several days. If you experience nausea and vomiting, call your dentist.

Your dentist may prescribe medication to control the pain and to prevent infection. Use it only as directed and if the medicine does not seem to work for you, do not increase the dosage. If you have severe pain, swelling, bleeding or fever, call your dentist right away.

Completion of the Healing Process

After the tooth is removed, the initial healing process usually takes one to two weeks. The filling in and reshaping of the jawbone will continue for several months after the tooth has been removed.

That’s it! Just a tiny little tweak and you’re done.

When you see an ugly sore in or around your mouth, you probably find yourself asking questions like what is it? Is it contagious? How soon will it go away? Is it really caused by herpes?

Chances are it’s one of two types of oral infections. If it’s on the outside of your mouth, it’s a cold sore, also known as a fever blister. If it’s inside your mouth, it’s a canker sore. Whichever it is, you can assume the sore will disappear within a couple of weeks.

Let’s clear up those old rumours. Cold sores are caused by a form of the herpes virus, but it’s not the same virus that causes the venereal disease. Nonetheless, once you’re infected with the cold-sore-causing herpes virus, you’re infected for life. That means that an episode of stress, fever, illness, injury or overexposure to the sun can trigger a bout of cold sores. Usually, you’ll experience itching, tingling or burning in the lip area one to three days before the fever blister occurs.

You’ll experience the same sorts of sensations when a canker sore is about to erupt. These ulcer-like sores found on the inside of the mouth aren’t associated with any particular virus or bacteria. In fact, no one knows what causes canker sores. They have been linked to some food allergies and mouth trauma, but there is no irrefutable evidence.

Now let’s get on to what you really want to know: how do you make them go away? Unfortunately, you can’t. But there are some dos and don’ts:

  • Don’t kiss anyone while plagued by cold sores. They are very contagious. However, canker sores are not infectious, so feel free to show your affection.
  • Don’t touch your cold sores.
  • Do keep cold sores clean and dry. If they cause you a lot of pain, try using a pain-relieving cream.
  • Do use an analgesic cream to help numb painful canker sores.
  • Do eat a bland diet when afflicted by either kind of sore.
  • Do see your dentist for prescription medications if the pain becomes unbearable, or if episodes become chronic.

While there’s no cure for either of these ugly sores, there’s at least some small comfort in knowing that in an average of two weeks, they’ll be out of your life.

Unlike most adults, you don’t snore. You’ve never sleepwalked. And you don’t talk in your sleep. You’ve had the good fortune to escape all the nasty little nocturnal habits that afflict others. Or have you?

If you find yourself waking up with a sore jaw or even a headache, and your teeth seem to be getting more sensitive to heat and cold, you may very well be a nighttime tooth grinder.

Called bruxism, tooth grinding afflicts up to 50 percent of the population. If you have bruxism, you clench your teeth when you sleep and grind them together. Since you can bite up to six times harder when you’re sleeping than you can when you’re awake, this can cause a lot of damage if not corrected.

Some of the effects of bruxism are:

  • pain and damage to the gums and teeth;
  • sore facial muscles, headaches and earaches;
  • teeth so ground down they become shortened;
  • the enamel can wear away, causing teeth to become more sensitive to heat and cold;
  • the pressure from grinding can fracture teeth and crack fillings; and
  • damage to the TMJ, which is the small joint that connects the lower jaw to the upper jaw allowing you to chew and talk.

If you think you may be grinding your teeth, you should make an appointment to see your dentist. You’ll probably be fitted with a custom mouth guard you can wear to bed, which will take the brunt of the pressure that would otherwise be directed at your unprotected teeth. Don’t delay. See your dentist today.

Think you’re immune to gum disease? More than 75 percent of Canadians over the age of 35 have some form of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. In fact, more than $10 billion is spent each year replacing teeth sacrificed to gum disease – the main cause of tooth loss in adults.

The mildest form of gum disease is gingivitis. Affecting the gum and tissues that support your teeth, this bacterial infection doesn’t hurt and has very few symptoms other then red, swollen gums that bleed easily.

Luckily, gingivitis is easily reversible with treatment from your dentist and good oral home care. If left untreated, it can become more severe and lead to all sorts of unpleasant complications, including tooth loss, respiratory disease, heart disease and low birth-weight babies.

How does gum disease happen? If you don’t remove plaque — that sticky, colourless film that forms on your teeth each day — by brushing and flossing, it hardens into something called calculus, or tartar. This calculus builds up under your gums, increasing your risk of gum disease.

The bacteria in plaque also produce toxins that irritate the gums and cause them to pull away from the teeth. This results in periodontal pockets, which fill up with toxins and bacteria, ultimately destroying the bone that holds the tooth in place. If left untreated, the effected teeth will become loose, eventually falling out or needing to be removed.

The Warning Signs:

  • bleeding gums while brushing;
  • red, swollen or tender gums;
  • gums that pull away from the teeth;
  • bad breath that won’t go away;
  • pus between the teeth and gums (leaving a bad taste);
  • loose or separating teeth;
  • changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite; and
  • changes in the fit of partial dentures.

Fortunately, gum disease is preventable. Make sure you brush and floss properly each day, and get regular check-ups by your dentist. During your exam, the dentist, or dental hygienist, will inspect your gums, making it easier to catch it in the early stages, and will remove plaque and calculus in areas that may lead to gum disease.

Save your teeth and your smile. See your dentist today if you have the slightest suspicion you may be suffering from gum disease.

Dental Plaque is the bacteria-laden matrix that forms on neglected teeth or teeth in individuals with periodontitis (gum disease). Cardiac plaque is similar in structure, but it clogs the arteries in our heart muscle and causes atherosclerosis and /or heart attacks.

Research has found that specific bacteria common in dental plaque are also found in cardiac plaque. Research continues to see if there is a true “cause and effect”. In other words, there are efforts underway to measure if the bacteria from the mouth migrate to cause heart valve damage in patients with infective endocarditis.

So when you remove plaque from your mouth with a brush and floss, you reduce the risk that those bacteria may lodge in the vessels or valves of your heart. After all, statistics show that people with gum disease are twice as likely to have coronary artery disease.

If you have heart disease that resulted in damage to your heart valves, your dentist will prescribe an appropriate antibiotic therapy before doing most dental procedures.

Oral cancer is a disease resulting from abnormal cell growth in the mouth, lips, tongue or throat. The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that 4,100 new cases of oral cancer were diagnosed in Canada in 2013. It is also estimated that 1,150 of those Canadians diagnosed in 2010 will die from the disease. Fortunately, oral cancer can be diagnosed with an annual cancer exam provided by a dentist.

People over the age of 45 are most at risk. The good news is that oral cancer can be treated successfully if caught early enough. Most early signs of oral cancer are painless and hard to discover without a complete examination by a dentist or physician. However, oral and throat cancers lend themselves to early diagnosis and treatment. Regular dental exams and early detection can greatly reduce the risk of these life-threatening cancers. Your dentist has the expertise and training needed to detect early signs of the disease through a comprehensive oral examination.

Oral cancer refers to all cancers of the oral cavity, which includes the following:

  • lips
  • tongue
  • teeth
  • gums (gingiva)
  • lining inside the lips and cheeks (labial mucosa and buccal mucosa)
  • floor of the mouth
  • roof of the mouth (palate)
  • the area behind the wisdom teeth

Most oral cancers are located on the sides of the tongue, floor of the mouth and lips.

Oral cancer starts in the cells of the mouth. Normally these cells are quite resistant to damage, but repeated injury from smoking, alcohol or even friction may cause sores or painful areas where cancer can start.

Signs and symptoms of oral cancer

Since early detection is so important, check your mouth when brushing and flossing. If you notice any changes in the way your mouth looks, or any of the following signs and symptoms, contact your dentist immediately:

  • A mouth sore that does not heal, or that bleeds easily.
  • A white or red patch in the mouth, or on your lips or tongue that will not go away.
  • A lump, thickening or soreness in the mouth, throat or on the tongue.
  • Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or lips.
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing food, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue.

Risky Factors

  • Consumption of tobacco products (cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, etc).
  • Heavy alcohol consumption, especially in combination with smoking.
  • Prolonged, repeated exposure of the lips to the sun.
  • Poor diet; genetics and gender — men have historically been found to be more prone to oral cancer.
  • A history of leukoplakia – a thick, whitish-colour patch inside the mouth.

Diagnosis and treatment

Treatment depends on the severity and location of the disease, as well as the age and health of the patient. If your dentist suspects oral cancer, a biopsy (surgical removal and microscopic examination) and/or vital staining of the lesion will be performed to confirm the diagnosis. Imaging tests such as X-rays, ultra sounds, CT scans or MRIs may be taken. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery may be necessary to remove tumor(s).

To help prevent oral cancer:

  • See your dentist regularly for dental exams and ask about oral cancer screenings.
  • Stop using tobacco products (including cigarettes, cigars, pipes or smokeless tobacco) — ask your dentist about ways to help you quit.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Limit sun exposure and use U/V protective lip balms.
  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Check your mouth regularly for signs or symptoms and report any changes in your mouth to your dentist right away.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for a thorough exam, including an oral cancer screening.

Smoking cigarettes and the use of other tobacco products can be extremely dangerous to your health. Each year, more than 30,000 new cases of cancer of the mouth and throat are diagnosed. Of these, nearly 75 percent of oral and throat cancers are caused by the use of smoked and smokeless tobacco.

Did you know?

  • Smokers have a five-times greater risk of dying from oral cancer than non-smokers.
  • More than 9,000 people die from oral cancer each year.
  • When tobacco and alcohol use are combined, your risk of oral cancer is increased 15 times more than that of non-users of tobacco and alcohol products.
  • You cannot reduce your risk of oral cancer by switching from cigarettes to a pipe, cigars or smokeless tobacco.
  • Oral cancer includes cancers of the mouth, tongue, lips, throat, parts of the nose and larynx. The five-year survival rate for these cancers is only about 50 percent.

When one of your teeth gets injured or infected, the soft tissues, blood vessels and nerves that lie in its center, called the pulp chamber, also become damaged. In the past, this meant certain death for both tooth and pulp, and, more often than not, forced dentists to extract the compromised tooth.

Advanced technology available today has made it possible to save teeth injured or infected in this manner. In fact, there’s an entire dental specialty devoted to preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases or injuries to the dental pulp called Endodontics.

When the tooth’s pulp becomes injured or diseased, it loses its vitality, resulting in pulp death, and negatively affecting the root canal beneath it. The most common causes of pulp death are a cracked tooth, a deep cavity, or traumatic injury to the tooth, which allows bacteria and their products to leak into the pulp. This can result in an abscess forming at end of the root, causing pain and swelling.

If the injured or diseased pulp is not removed, the tissues surrounding the root of the tooth can also become infected, resulting in more pain and swelling. Even if there is no pain, certain substances released by bacteria can damage the bone that holds the tooth in the jaw. To save a tooth experiencing pulp death, general dentists or an endodontist (a specialist in this therapy) may perform a root canal.

Treatment usually involves several dental visits. Here’s how your tooth is saved through root canal treatment:

First, the tooth is isolated from the saliva with a dam (a rubber-like sheet placed around the tooth). An opening is then made through the crown of the tooth into the pulp chamber. Local anaesthesia is usually given prior to this step so that you will be more comfortable during treatment.

The pulp is then removed carefully from both the pulp chamber and root canal. The canal is cleaned, enlarged and shaped to a form that can be filled. Medication may be put in the pulp chamber and root canal to help eliminate bacteria.

Next, a temporary filling will be placed in the crown opening to prevent saliva from getting into the chamber and root canals. You may also be given antibiotics if infection is present and has spread beyond the end of the root.

During the next stage of treatment, the temporary filling is removed. The root canal is then filled and permanently sealed with a natural, biocompatible material. In case of considerable tooth structure loss, a metal or plastic rod or post may be placed in the root canal for structural support, and a crown is usually placed over the tooth.

In the final step, a crown made of porcelain or metal alloy is usually placed over the tooth to restore structure, function and appearance. If an endodontist performs the root canal treatment, he or she will recommend that you return to your general dentist for the crown’s preparation.

Now that your dental treatment is complete, you’ll want to make sure you brush twice a day, floss daily and, above all, make a standing appointment with your dentist for regular check-ups. That way you can keep smiling on!

Do you cringe at the thought of taking the first sip of hot coffee or taste of ice cream? Is your enjoyment of hot and cold foods tempered by the flash of pain that comes when you eat them?

If so, you probably suffer from dentin hypersensitivity, or sensitive teeth. This common problem occurs when gums recede and the dentin, or the sensitive part of the tooth, becomes exposed. Microscopic holes in the dentin, called tubules, connect to the nerve and trigger pain when irritated by certain foods and beverages, or by brushing and flossing.

You should see your dentist if you think you may have sensitive teeth. He’ll want to make sure your sensitivity isn’t caused by a dental problem that needs attention. Your dentist may also recommend one of the following treatments to help relieve your symptoms:

  • A soft-bristle toothbrush to protect gums.
  • A special toothpaste for sensitive teeth that can block contact with the nerve. These products will either seal the exposed tubule openings or reduce the ability of the nerves to transmit pain.
  • A fluoride rinse or gel for sensitive teeth. Fluoride treatments may be applied to the sensitive areas of the teeth. The fluoride binds to the tooth and reduces the transmission of sensations through it.

Call your dentist today. The sooner you pay him a visit, the sooner you’ll be able to enjoy your favourite foods with a smile.

“TMJ” is the acronym for your Temporomandibular joint – the joint that keeps your jaw working properly.

If you suffer from bruxism (excessive grinding of the teeth and/or excessive clenching of the jaw) and don’t have the problem corrected by your dentist, you could damage this crucial joint and end up with a TM disorder.

If you have a TM disorder, you’ll experience some of the following symptoms:

  • an earache with no infection;
  • tenderness of the jaw muscles;
  • a clicking or popping noise when you open or close your mouth;
  • problems opening or closing your mouth;
  • pain when you yawn, chew or open your mouth; and
  • certain headaches or neck aches.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your dentist. He or she will take a complete medical history and conduct a thorough clinical examination to ensure a proper diagnosis. If the problem is indeed a TM disorder, you’ll probably be treated in one of the following ways:

  • To eliminate spasms and pain, you may need to wear a bite splint, apply heat to the face, take prescribed medications like muscle relaxers or analgesics, massage the muscles or be given exercises to stretch or reprogram specific muscles used to chew.
  • Relaxation techniques, such as biofeedback, can help you to control tension throughout the body and reduce muscle tension in the jaws.
  • Psychological counselling may help to reduce or eliminate the stress that causes you to clench or grind your teeth.
  • Your bite may be adjusted by selective grinding of the teeth, use of braces or other dental procedures to properly align your teeth and reduce problems caused when your teeth do not line up properly.

In severe cases, after all other treatment options have failed, surgery may be recommended to help restore the proper functioning of your jaw joint.

So you don’t have to live with the pain caused by teeth grinding. See your dentist today and give yourself a reason to smile.

The Short Story

Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases in today’s society. It can attack anyone. Tooth decay is caused by food that is left on your teeth. These bits of food can leave a sticky, colourless film on your teeth called plaque. The germs that live in the plaque make acid that can eat holes in your teeth and cause a cavity.

It is important to brush and floss your teeth after eating and before the food particles can turn into plaque.

The Details

Tooth decay is a process that occurs slowly over time. It usually begins at the outer layer of tooth enamel where plaque has formed. This phase is usually painless and often goes unnoticed.

The decay then penetrates the dentin, which is connected to the nerve cells in the pulp of the tooth. You may begin to notice increased sensitivity or even some pain, although this phase can also be difficult to detect.

Since the decay process speeds up at this phase, the softer tissue becomes affected and cannot support the enamel. It is at this point that the tooth may break down and cavities begin to form.

If the decay is not treated, it may reach the pulp of the tooth, which contains the nerves, resulting in pain, usually in the form of a toothache. The tooth may die if the decay is not treated.

An infection may cause an abscess to form and can spread to nearby teeth or other parts of the body. Caught early, a root canal procedure can usually save the tooth. If the tooth cannot be saved, it may need to be removed.

Because the early phases of tooth decay are painless and usually go unnoticed, it is very important to visit your dentist every six months for your cleaning and check-up.