Also known as dental caries or dental decay, tooth decay affects around one third of Australian adults and children. Though it’s easily preventable, without treatment for tooth decay your teeth become progressively more damaged, until they need to be extracted or treated with root canal therapy.
What causes tooth decay?
When your mouth’s naturally occurring bacteria combine with the food you eat (particularly food high in sugar or starch) they form sticky plaque. If not thoroughly cleaned away, this plaque will then harden into tartar, home to bacteria which create harmful acid that dissolves your tooth structure and creates cavities.
Tooth decay can affect all three of your teeth’s layers: the hard outer layer called enamel; the middle layer, called dentin; and finally the soft centre called pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. When more layers are affected by tooth decay, more damage is caused, requiring more treatment.
For this reason, we recommend you contact Wickham Terrace Dental in Brisbane for a regular, thorough check-up and professional clean, to help us treat tooth decay in its early stages.
Early tooth decay treatment
If we diagnose your tooth decay early, there are a few different tactics the Wickham Terrace Dental team can use to limit its effects and help stop further decay.
We may apply a concentrated fluoride gel, varnish or paste to the affected area, to help stop decay in its very early stages. This early tooth decay treatment is particularly effective if you cut down your dietary intake of sugar at the same time.
If you do already have a cavity in your tooth enamel, the Wickham Terrace Dental team will carefully remove the decay, and restore your tooth’s missing tooth structure with a filling. You may choose from different filling materials such as a tooth-coloured composite resin or supremely durable, milled porcelain.
Severe tooth decay treatment
If your tooth decay has reached the pulp of your tooth, we may recommend root canal therapy to remove the diseased pulp, cleanse and fill your tooth, and restore it with a dental crown. With our modern root canal treatment, we can relieve the pain of an infected tooth and give you back its full function.
In some cases, if your tooth is so badly decayed that it cannot be restored, we may recommend extraction as the best way to prevent the spread of infection. We can then restore the shape and function of your smile with treatments such as dental implants, a dental bridge or even dentures.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the main tooth decay causes?
Natural bacteria and the food you eat combine to create plaque, a clear, sticky substance that constantly forms on your teeth and gums. If it’s not regularly removed, this plaque is the ideal home for bacteria, which feed on the sugar in your food to make acid, destroying your tooth enamel and causing cavities.
What are the tell-tale tooth decay symptoms?
Unfortunately, you may not experience any signs of tooth decay until you have a large cavity in one or more teeth. When this happens, you may notice a toothache, swollen gums, bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth, or brownish or grey spots on your teeth. If you do experience a toothache, contact the Wickham Terrace Dental team as soon as possible. Even though your pain may come and go, the underlying problem will remain – and without treatment, cavities will only get worse.
How do I stop tooth decay?
To prevent tooth decay and cavities, make sure that every day you:
- Brush and floss your teeth thoroughly, morning and night
- Limit your intake of foods that are high in sugar or starch, so that bacteria don’t have a lot to eat
- Visit Wickham Terrace Dental’s Brisbane CBD practice regularly for a check-up and clean
- Make sure you get enough fluoride, either through fluoridated water or with a topical treatment from Wickham Terrace Dental, to help your teeth become more resistant to the acid produced by plaque.
- Ensure your mouth can produce enough saliva by drinking plenty of water
- Give up smoking
Can you advise me on how to fix tooth decay?
The treatment for tooth decay you need will depend on how severe the decay is. Your treatment options may include:
- Using a fluoride toothpaste or having fluoride treatments to reverse early decay, before cavities can form
- Having a filling once a cavity has formed, to remove the decay, fill the hole and restore your tooth to its original shape
- Placement of a crown to restore a badly damaged or decayed tooth
- Root canal treatment to remove the diseased pulp of an infected tooth
- Extraction of a severely damaged or diseased tooth, followed by replacement with a dental implant or bridge.
It’s important to remember that early treatment can save your tooth. If tooth decay is left untreated, your cavities will get worse, to the point where you may lose a tooth or teeth. Any necessary treatment for tooth repair may also cost more, and take longer.
What will my tooth decay treatment cost?
Treatment for tooth decay can start from less than a hundred dollars up to several thousand dollars, depending on how early we are able to treat the affected tooth. As with everything in health care, prevention is better (and far less expensive) than treatment of an existing condition. Additionally, the earlier we can treat a problem area, the more conservative, simpler, stronger, more comfortable and less expensive your treatment will be. So remember – don’t delay in contacting Wickham Terrace Dental if you have any concerns about your teeth!