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Tooth Decay
Cavities or tooth decay

Cavities or tooth decay

Tooth decay, also called cavities or caries, is a common dental problem characterised by permanently damaged areas in the hard surface of the teeth that form tiny holes. They result from different factors, including sugary drinks, lack of proper dental hygiene, frequent snacking and bacteria in the mouth.

Untreated tooth decay can become larger and affect deeper tooth layers, leading to infection, tooth loss and severe toothache. You can protect yourself from tooth decay by maintaining a good oral hygiene routine and visiting your dentist regularly.

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Diagnosis of tooth decay

When you visit your dentist, they can diagnose tooth decay by:

  • Examining your dental x-rays,which show the degree of decay
  • Examining your teeth and mouth
  • Asking about tooth sensitivity and tooth pain
  • Probing your teeth with a dental instrument to check for soft area
Diagnosis of tooth decay in London

Treatment

Your dentist can identify cavities and other dental conditions during your regular dental check-ups before they become more severe and cause life-threatening issues. Seeking dental care early for cavities increases the likelihood of reversing the condition at its earliest stage and preventing it from advancing. If you get treatment for tooth decay before it starts causing pain, you won’t need extensive treatment.

The treatment for cavities depends on the severity of the condition and your situation. Common tooth decay treatments include the following;
  • Fluoride treatment: If your tooth decay is in its earliest stage, your dentist may recommend fluoride treatment to restore your enamel. In some cases, fluoride treatment can reverse tooth decay in its earliest stage. Fluoride treatments contain more fluoride than the fluoride available in tap water, mouth rinses, and toothpaste. Your fluoride treatment may be in foam, varnish, liquid, or gel form, which you brush on the teeth or place in a small tray to fit over your teeth.
  • Fillings: Fillings also referred to as restorations, are the common treatment for tooth decay that has progressed past the earliest stage. Fillings are available in different materials, including porcelain or dental amalgam and tooth-coloured resins.
  • Crowns: If you have a weekend tooth resulting from tooth decay or extensive decay, your dentist may recommend fitting a crown. A crown is a custom-fitted covering used to replace the natural tooth crown. The dentist will drill away the decayed tooth area and part of the teeth to ensure the crown fits perfectly. Dental crowns also are available in different materials such as resin, high-strength porcelain, porcelain fused to metal, gold and other materials.
  • Root canals: If the decay affects the inner part of the teeth, called the pulp, your dentist may carry out a root canal. A root canal involves repairing a severely damaged or infected tooth instead of having a tooth removal. The dentist will remove the infected pulp and administer medication to clear the infection, then replace the pulp with a filling.
  • Tooth extraction: When the tooth becomes severely damaged beyond restoration, the dentist will remove it. Removing a tooth leaves a gap which makes other teeth move to shift into the gap. After tooth removal, you may have to consider getting a dental implant or bridge to replace the missing tooth.

Preparing for treatment

If you experience tooth sensitivity or pain, ensure you schedule an appointment with your dentist. While preparing for the appointment, here are some things to help you prepare;

What to do

Before your appointment, list the following:

  • All medication, herbal remedies, vitamins and other supplements you are taking and their dosages
  • Any question you want to ask the dentist
  • Any bad reaction to local anaesthetics or allergies to medications

The following are basic questions you can ask your dentist;

  • When will the pain stop?
  • What will ease the pain?
  • How many visits to the clinic will I need for treatment?
  • Do I have a simple cavity, or do I need a root canal or crown?
  • What steps can I take to prevent cavities?
  • How long do I have to wait after the procedure before eating or taking a drink?

What to expect from your dentist

Your dentist may ask some questions to help reach an accurate diagnosis, so you need to prepare to answer these questions correctly to save your time.

Some questions your dentist may ask include:

  • Does biting down make the pain worse?
  • Do you use toothpaste containing fluoride?
  • How often do you brush your teeth?
  • What medications do you take?
  • How often do you floss?
  • Have you experienced dry mouth?
  • Do you take lots of sugary beverages, sodas or sweets?
  • Do extreme food temperatures or sweet foods cause tooth pain?

What to do while waiting for your appointment

While waiting for your appointment with the dentist, taking the following steps can help reduce your tooth pain;

  • Brush your teeth with warm water
  • Use toothpaste for sensitive teeth
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medication recommended by your dentist
  • Avoid hot, cold, sweet foods or beverages that trigger your tooth pain
  • Clean your teeth thoroughly, and do not clean the areas causing pain
  • Use an over-the-counter anaesthetic that soothes painful teeth