A Guide to Dental Decay
Dental decay is among the most common reasons for emergency dentistry in the UK, with many individuals making the incorrect judgment that the issue does not require medical attention. If left untreated, cavities can increase in size and result in the development of severe complications.
Patients who ensure they seek treatment from a dental professional after noticing the first signs of dental decay are able to significantly limit the risk of pain and discomfort, while also preventing the need for often costly emergency dental procedures.
Dental decay is among the most widespread health problems among people of all ages in the UK. NHS figures reveal that 55 per cent of adults in the country have one or more decayed teeth.
The issue also affects a large number of children, with between 52 and 77 per cent of those aged between eight and 15 years old displaying some clear signs of decay in their mouth.
Why does dental decay occur?
The increasingly common issue of dental decay occurs when acids in the mouth dissolve the outer layers of the teeth. Usually, it develops when bacteria in the mouth combines with food particles and saliva to form plaque, which can build up on the teeth.
Individuals who consume large quantities of food and drink that are high in sugary or starchy carbohydrates could see the problem exacerbating as this substance provides the bacteria with the energy it needs, while producing acid simultaneously.
If plaque is left to build up on teeth it can cause a number of dental issues, including the accumulation of calculus, which develops when the sticky substance hardens. When this occurs, patients may not be able to remove the harmful bacteria through simple brushing – particularly when it becomes trapped around the roots of the teeth.
When this issue worsens, the gums can recede away from the affected tooth, resulting in them becoming loosened or wobbly inside the mouth. This disease process is called irreversible gum disease or Periodontitis.
The acid in plaque begins to break down the surface of the tooth, including the protective layer of enamel, over time and can completely destroy the outside of the teeth, leaving sensitive nerves exposed to further damage. When this damage occurs, individuals suffer toothache, which can result in the tooth falling out.
When the plaque has caused a cavity in the tooth, it creates increased space for food debris and bacteria to build up in the mouth, which is increasingly difficult to remove during a daily oral health routine.
If the cavity reaches the inner part of the tooth after eating through protective layers of enamel and dentin, patients are likely to experience severe pain due to the sensitive nature of the nerve endings found in this area.
Can dental decay cause more problems?
The structure of a tooth can be affected if a large cavity has developed on the surface, causing the area to weaken significantly as time progresses. This issue can continue to exacerbate even without the onset of an infection, with individuals urged to seek attention from an emergency dentist upon the first signs of damage.
Breakages, fractures and splits are more likely to occur when a large cavity develops on a tooth and can be significantly more difficult to treat than the early symptoms of dental decay.
Destruction of the teeth as a result of the issue can lead to a wide range of problems including severe pain, the growth of abscesses, difficulty chewing and the requirement of a tooth extraction.
In addition, speech could become impaired as a result of tooth loss, with unpleasant breath and the need for expensive treatment emerging if an appropriate oral health routine is not carried out on a daily basis.
Image conscious individuals could also suffer from a reduction to their self-esteem after losing a tooth, which can often occur as a result of dental decay.
How is dental decay treated?
Patients who experience a dull, throbbing toothache that sharpens when pressure is placed on a particular area should seek assistance from an emergency dentist as soon as possible. When the issue reaches an advanced stage, there is very little that can be done without the help of a professional.
The treatment offered as a solution for dental decay is entirely dependent on the severity of the problem, with minor cases relieved by filling the cavity before it reaches the centre of the tooth. This process is carried out using a range of materials, with most patients receiving less expensive and more durable materials in the back teeth.
Alternatively, individuals with dental decay in their front teeth are likely to receive more aesthetic composite white filling materials during the emergency dentistry procedure to ensure their smile maintains its attractive appearance.
In cases where the decay has reached the centre of the tooth, the pulp may have become infected and the cavity could seal the infection in place. For this reason, patients are required to undergo root canal treatment to remove the infected pulp inside the tooth before installing a crown to protect against further issues.
This procedure can cause pain and discomfort for patients, as well as requiring a period of recovery time. It is strongly recommended that this dental decay is treated during its earliest stages to prevent the likelihood of emergency dentistry.
How can decay be prevented?
Adopting an effective daily routine to improve and maintain overall oral health can be extremely beneficial in preventing dental decay and a number of other dental issues, including split teeth and bad breath.
Brushing teeth regularly is the most effective method of preventing the onset of infections, as it removes minor cases of plaque and trapped food from hard to reach areas of the mouth. Emergency dentists recommend that individuals of all ages clean their teeth in the morning and evening, as well as between meals when possible, to ensure the process of plaque removal is ongoing.
The technique used to brush teeth is required to be thorough in order to ensure the daily routine will provide the desired results. Speaking to an emergency dental professional about the appropriate method of brushing is recommended for individuals who are unsure about the best way to carry out the task.
During this process, it is vital to remove plaque from the teeth while avoiding the protective layer of enamel being damaged by the hard bristles. For this reason, individuals are urged to brush teeth in a gentle manner to avoid harming the teeth and gums. This can be achieved by brushing away from the gums rather than towards them.
Using a high fluoride toothpaste will also strengthen enamel, which can provide a natural barrier against harmful bacteria and the development of dental decay.
Flossing is an effective method of preventing the onset of a wide range of oral health issues and should be carried out between meals when possible. This process can clean away a number of substances from between the teeth that can not be removed through simple brushing.
Visiting a dentist on a regular basis is another factor that could significantly reduce the risk of developing the potentially serious issue of dental decay. Individuals can reduce their treatment options by failing to attend regular check-ups, which can make it difficult to detect issues in their early stages.
For those people who are unable to floss more than twice every day, chewing sugar-free gum between meals could provide an effective solution while ensuring the breath stays fresh.
It is recommended that members of the public visit their dental professional every six months, where any developing plaque can be removed using a simple procedure. Increasing the regularity of dental visits could mean that small cavities can be treated and improvements can be made before painful symptoms of dental decay are allowed to develop.
The practice is open Seven days a week from 8am to 11pm for routine dentistry and we offer a 24 hour emergency dental walk-in service 365 days a year. You can book a consultation at any time by calling our reception team 24 hours a day on 0208 547 9997 or contact us during our working hours by email.