What Is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is a term used to describe the disease that causes the destruction of the outer layer of a tooth. Unfortunately, this disease does not stop at the outer layer of the tooth. It also has the ability to progress and attack deeper layers. Tooth decay has the potential to lead to cavities if not dealt with promptly and properly.

The terms tooth decay and dental cavities are often used interchangeably. This is partially due to the fact that tooth decay eventually transforms to cavities once it has eroded the enamel. This can be avoided by simply being aware of tooth decay causes, symptoms, treatments and prevention.




The main driver behind tooth decay is plaque buildup. Plaque can be described as a sticky layer that forms on the teeth. The bacteria in plaque thrives on sugar and starchy foods. When these types of foods are consumed, the bacteria produces acid that destroys the tooth enamel and thus creates tooth decay.

Tooth decay does not have an age range. It can affect people of all ages including children. You may have higher chances of suffering from tooth decay if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Weak enamel due to genetics
  • Weak enamel due to illness
  • Dry mouth
  • Eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia
  • Acid reflux or GERD



There are various symptoms that can manifest themselves when tooth decay is present. Having said that, not every person that suffers from tooth decay will have symptoms in the early stages of the disease. As tooth decay advances, you might experience the following:

  • Bad breath
  • Tooth sensitivity to cold or hot foods
  • Tooth pain
  • Difficulties biting certain foods
  • Dark or white spots on teeth
  • Cavities
  • Loose fillings
  • Food trapped in teeth
  • Abscesses in teeth that come with pain, fever, or swelling of the face



The best way to know if you have tooth decay or not is to get assessed by a dentist. This is something that our team does during your bi-annual checkups. If it is determined that you are suffering from tooth decay, the dentist will recommend a course of treatment appropriate for the stage of your disease. Below are some of those treatment options.

Fluoride Treatment

Fluoride is a mineral that is well known for helping to strengthen tooth enamel. In the early stages of tooth decay, fluoride treatments can work wonders. Our team can use fluoride in various forms to help stop and repair the damage from tooth decay. This is usually a quick treatment with fluoride being used in either gel, foam, varnish, or solution forms.


If tooth decay has advanced to the point of cavities, fillings are the best line of defense. Fillings require that the tooth be drilled to remove the decay. The cavity is then filled with either amalgam or composite.


There are instances when the cavity has become quite large. In these situations, crowns are a better bet than fillings. The process for a crown differs from a filling in that the dentist must first remove the outer portion of the tooth as well as any decay. An impression of the tooth is taken in order to create the perfect fitting crown.

Root Canals And Extractions

Sometimes tooth decay has advanced and created more damage than the treatments above can fix. These are the scenarios in which root canals and extractions are used. Our team is happy to talk you through these options in the case that you might require them.


We can say without a doubt that dealing with tooth decay is not what our patients wish for. Most people that suffer from tooth decay wish that they had worked harder at preventing it in the first place. The list below are some of the things that can help prevent tooth decay.

  • Brushing the teeth twice a day
  • Flossing at least once a day
  • Eating healthy and nutritious meals
  • Limiting snacking
  • Visiting the dentist twice a year for bi-annual cleanings and checkups

Tooth decay can be preventable under the right circumstances. It can also be reversible when found early on. Our most humble recommendation is that you do not skip your bi-annual dental cleanings and checkups. This is where early detection takes place which gives you thes best chance at resolving the issue quickly and with ease. If you are due for your checkup, please give us a call. Our team is here to help you.

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