Tooth decay, also known as dental cavities (or caries) occurs when the protective enamel surfaces of the teeth are worn down by bacteria. Bacteria produce harmful plaque acids, which break down the outer layers of the teeth, creating holes in the teeth. If holes are left to grow, bacteria can invade the living tissue of the tooth, known as the pulp and cause the tooth to die, until eventually the tooth will fall out.
How common is tooth decay?
Tooth decay is one of the most common health problems, affecting the majority of people. More than half of adults in the UK have one or more decayed teeth and rates of decay are increasing in children.
What are the symptoms of tooth decay?
Tooth decay does not usually cause symptoms until decay is severe and this is why regular dental checks are so important. One decay has become advanced, symptoms include tooth pain, bad breath, heightened sensitivity and spots of grey and yellow discolouration on the teeth.
How is tooth decay treated?
In the very early stages, fluoride varnish can be applied to the teeth to prevent further decay; however, if decay is more advanced, a filing may be required. Fillings are used to fill cavities and prevent the spread of decay. If bacteria have infected the pulp of the tooth, root canal treatment will be performed. This procedure involves removing decayed pulp tissue and cleaning and sealing the root canals to prevent further infection. Root canal treatment is often a very effective means of saving an infected tooth.
Preventing tooth decay
Fluoride is a very effective means of preventing tooth decay, which can be applied to the surfaces of the teeth in varnish form and is also present in toothpaste and in drinking water in some areas of the country. Fluoride helps to strengthen the teeth.
Regular dental check-ups with your Central Leeds dentist, every six to twelve months, are essential for good oral health.