Tooth decay is one of the most common problems treated by our dentists. If you want to get the best quality tooth decay treatment, you can definitely rely on our leading dental specialists.
Tooth decay is also called dental caries and causes cavities or holes to develop in teeth. It is one of the most common dental problems worldwide, most often affecting children and teens, and older adults. However, anyone with teeth, including infants, can get tooth decay.
Without treatment, tooth decay will worsen, and the cavity will deepen, eventually affecting the innermost part of the tooth called the pulp. A deep cavity can cause severe infection and toothache and may ultimately cause tooth loss.
What Are the Symptoms of Tooth Decay?
When a cavity just begins, it can cause very few if any signs at all. When tooth decay worsens, symptoms can include:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Pain when you eat or drink something hot or cold or sweet or sour
- Pain when you bite or chew
- Visible holes in teeth
- Tooth stains that may look brown, white or black
Why Do Teeth Decay?
Tooth decay develops when plaque, a clear sticky film that contains bacteria, begins to form over tooth surfaces and isn’t removed regularly by brushing and flossing your teeth. The bacteria in plaque feed off sugars and starches and create acid that removes minerals from your tooth enamel, causing acid erosion. As tooth enamel gradually erodes, it creates tiny holes in the enamel, which are the first signs of tooth decay.
Gradually, the holes become larger penetrating beyond your tooth enamel and into the next layer of your tooth, which is called dentin. Dentin is much softer than enamel and more easily damaged by acid. It consists of tiny tubules that lead directly to the tooth nerve, which is why a tooth becomes increasingly sensitive as a cavity deepens.
As the cavity gets progressively larger, it eventually reaches the pulp. Consequently, the pulp becomes swollen, inflamed, and infected by the bacteria. As the inflamed tissue swells, the nerve becomes compressed, causing discomfort and pain.
What Are the Risk Factors for Tooth Decay?
Anyone can get tooth decay, but certain factors increase the risk:
- Eating sugary or starchy foods and drinks that stay on teeth for a long time
- Frequently snacking on foods and especially those that are sugary or acidic
- Giving infants a sweet bedtime bottle or a pacifier dipped in sugary liquid like honey
- Failing to clean your teeth frequently enough
- Some teeth are harder to clean such as back teeth that have lots of deep grooves and fissures
- Fluoride helps to harden teeth, and inadequate exposure can increase the risk of tooth decay
- Dry mouth, as a lack of saliva, allows harmful plaque bacteria to build up more easily
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) allows stomach acid to flow into the mouth and over teeth, causing acid erosion
- Eating disorders like bulimia expose teeth to harmful stomach acid
What is the Treatment for Tooth Decay?
We can diagnose tooth decay by examining your teeth and checking for soft areas that can indicate enamel erosion. Dental x-rays show the depth and size of cavities in the tooth. Treatment depends on the size of the cavity. Treatment options include:
- Fluoride Applications: Sometimes we can ‘cure’ tooth decay with topical fluoride applications that harden tooth enamel, reversing the early signs of enamel erosion. Professional fluoride treatments contain higher levels of fluoride than are available over the counter and are very safe.
- Fillings: Dental fillings are made from amalgam or more often tooth-colored materials like composite resin. Larger fillings are typically made from a precious metal alloy or from porcelain that is harder and stronger.
- Crowns: It is frequently the best tooth decay treatment for heavily decayed or weaker teeth. The crown covers the entire tooth and is custom made to ensure a precision fit. The most aesthetically pleasing crowns are made from ceramic materials, but can also be made with a porcelain fused to a metal substructure, or from highly polished precious metal alloys.
- Root Canal Therapy: When tooth decay reaches the tooth pulp, root canal therapy is needed to remove the infected pulp. Afterward, the tooth is sealed and is restored with either a filling or more likely a crown.
- Tooth Removal: It is the last resort, and we only remove a tooth when there is no hope of saving it. Some teeth are so severely infected and decayed that they need removing to eliminate the infection.
Do you have any questions about tooth decay treatment in Queens, NY? Would you like to schedule an appointment with the best dental specialists of Gentle Dental, please contact our Bayside office for a consultation at (718) 461-0100.