Tooth decay is a common problem here in the UK. It’s estimated that nearly 31% of us at some time or other have discovered we’ve got one or two teeth that are ‘rotting’. It’s not surprising when you consider that two-thirds of us have visible signs of plaque when they visit their dentist. Add into that the high level of sugar in our diets and it’s quite surprising we don’t have more problems. Many of us also have a phobia of the dentist and all things to do with the teeth – four in ten of us don’t get to the dentist regularly, which should ideally be every couple of years. A staggering 3 million of us struggle along with dental pain and don’t go and see our dentist. If you’re faced with rotting teeth, it’s important to do something about it as soon as possible. In the early stages of decay, there’s not always pain although some may notice more sensitivity. The essential thing here is that the earlier you can get intervention, the better for the health of your teeth and your future comfort.
What Are the Stages of Tooth Decay?
Stage 1: Demineralisation
The enamel covering your teeth is made up of minerals and it’s a pretty hard substance. Over time, plaque can develop, creating acids that work away on this enamel, weakening it over time. One of the first signs of this is a white spot on your tooth. If you notice this, it’s time to change your diet, improve your brushing routine and visit your dentist. Your dentist may also apply a fluoride gel to protect the tooth that has been affected.
Stage 2: Decay of the Enamel
If left untreated, your enamel will start to decay and you might notice the teeth becoming discoloured. This is a bit like the protective wall breaking down and putting your tooth structure at risk. This is usually the time that cavities start to form and your teeth become more sensitive. The main treatment from your dentist here is to fill the cavities and prevent further decay. They will also advise on the appropriate diet and dental hygiene to reduce your risk of further problems.
Stage 3: Decay of Dentin
Inside that wall of enamel is the dentin which is softer and less resistant to breakdown. It leads the way to our nerves which is why, when this starts getting damaged, we begin to suffer painful toothaches. There is still something your dentist can do here to prevent the rotting from proceeding further. Dentin decay can sometimes be treated with a filling or putting on a protective crown.
Stage 4: Damage to the Pulp
The inner part of the tooth is called the pulp and it contains both blood vessels and nerves. If this begins to decay or gets infected, you’ll feel quite a bit of pain and may see bleeding when you clean your teeth. This is normally when a procedure such as a root canal is carried out which removes the rotting part of the tooth. This is then filled in and a crown added for protection.
Stage 5: Abscess Development
The tooth becomes infected as bacteria get into the inner structures causing inflammation and pus starts to form. This can lead to severe pain that isn’t eased by taking products such as Ibuprofen. It’s essential to have immediate treatment here as the infection can easily spread to the jaw and cause even more problems. Often the dentist will carry out a root canal as above but it may be necessary to remove the tooth entirely. Antibiotics can also be used to handle the infection and reduce the abscess.
Can I Stop My Teeth Rotting?
As with most health issues, prevention is far better than cure. The way to stop your teeth from rotting is to look after them properly in the first place. That means:
- Eat a less sugary diet as this causes more plaque to develop.
- Clean your teeth at least twice a day.
- Book an appointment with your glasgow dentist at least once every 6 months for a check-up.
If you notice any of the symptoms in the stages above, it’s important to get it checked out. The earlier you do so, the more your dentist can better treat the problem and save you a lot of pain and discomfort.