What are the signs of tooth decay

Tooth decay - causes & preventive measures

Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases and usually causes immense damage to our teeth. Learn how dentists treat tooth decay and what you can do to prevent tooth decay in this article.

What is tooth decay?

The term tooth decay comes from the Latin and means something like rot. Caries is a disease of the tooth that is caused by microorganisms. Tooth decay is contagious and destroys tooth enamel.

How does tooth decay develop?

Before tooth decay occurs, there is plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a thin layer of bacteria that converts sugar into acid. These in turn react with the minerals in the tooth enamel and create holes. As the destruction of the enamel increases, the damage spreads to the dentin. Since the dentin is traversed by nerves, a caries disease causes pain.

Is tooth decay contagious?

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria, so, like other bacterial infections, it is contagious. However, it is uncommon for caries-causing bacteria to be transmitted between two people through shared cutlery or kissing.

What types of tooth decay are there and what symptoms do they trigger?

Caries can be differentiated into different types, depending on how much substance of the tooth has already been destroyed. Often tooth decay is only discovered when the dentin has already been destroyed. This section describes how you can recognize tooth decay based on certain symptoms.

Initial caries

At the beginning of the development of caries, whitish to brownish discolorations can occur. This discoloration can provide information about whether it is tooth decay. Initial caries is characterized by the demineralization of the tooth enamel by bacteria and is sometimes associated with pain sensitivity of the teeth. At the beginning of the development of caries, one can try to counteract this with good oral hygiene.

Dentinal caries

If the tooth enamel shows a yellowish to brown discoloration, the tooth decay is usually so advanced that a hole is formed. With dentine caries, those affected often feel pain when eating sweet, hot or cold food or drinks.

Deep dental caries

In the case of deep dental caries, the tooth has been destroyed right down to the pulp. This destruction is often accompanied by persistent pain. The holes in the tooth are usually clearly visible and an unpleasant odor can arise.

Tooth abscess

If the deep dental caries is not treated, the tooth decay can attack the tissues. A tooth abscess can develop, which, with severe pain, can cause the tissue around the tooth to swell and the tooth eventually to fall out.

How is tooth decay treated?

Tooth decay is treated differently depending on how advanced it is. If the tooth decay is still in the early stages, the dentist uses fluoride-containing preparations so that the tooth enamel is remineralized and hardened. If the caries has progressed further and a hole has already formed, the destroyed tooth substance must be removed by the dentist. By drilling the carious area, the dentist can remove the destroyed tooth substance and place a filling to seal the tooth. The filling can consist of various materials such as amalgam, ceramic, plastic or the like. If the tooth decay has not yet made any holes, the tooth decay can be treated without the need for a drill. Which treatment method is best for you will be determined in an individual consultation and examination of the affected areas.

After treatment

Toothache can occur for the first few days after a deep procedure. These often appear a few hours after treatment and should go away after two to three days. In the best case scenario, however, you will be symptom-free. After caries treatment, it is also particularly important to protect yourself against further tooth decay and to follow the dentist's instructions with regard to your own oral hygiene.

How can tooth decay be prevented?

To prevent tooth decay, a tooth-healthy diet should be observed. A diet with a low sugar and acid content is recommended. In addition, conscientious oral hygiene should be carried out. The use of toothpaste with fluorides, dental floss and mouthwash is of course part of daily dental care. Regular checkups at the dentist help identify and treat tooth decay at an early stage. In addition, professional tooth cleaning supports dental health. Therefore, you should have a professional teeth cleaning performed at least twice a year.