Child and dentist looking at tooth x-ray

Common Symptoms of Tooth Decay and How to Treat It

Tooth decay is a serious issue that can lead to sensitivity, pain, infection, and tooth loss. However, it’s also one that effective treatment and prevention can manage. Watch for these signs of tooth decay, and don’t hesitate to bring them up with your dentist.

Symptoms of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in your mouth that secrete acid as they metabolize bits of food. That acid wears away at your enamel, eventually causing cavities and exposing the more delicate layers below.

In the earliest stages of tooth decay, you can experience increased sensitivity. You might notice that your teeth are more sensitive to hot or cold food or drinks. Particularly sugary foods can also cause discomfort.

Before an actual cavity forms in your tooth, tooth decay is visible as a white spot. These small white spots are caused by demineralization. Your enamel loses minerals as acid eats away at it until a cavity starts to form.

When you develop a cavity, your tooth will have a physical hole. A cavity is visible under close inspection, but you may not be able to spot it yourself. If a cavity is large enough, you’ll be able to feel it with your tongue.

As tooth decay progresses, you can start to experience sharp pain in the affected area when chewing. Toothaches are also common and can seem to come and go without reason.

Serious tooth decay can lead to infection as bacteria reach the pulp inside your tooth. Infection can lead to severe toothaches, inflammation, and even fever. Ideally, tooth decay should be identified and dealt with before reaching this stage.

Tooth Decay Prevention

Bacteria are always present in your mouth. However, they only become a concern when they multiply in greater numbers, secreting more acid to cause tooth decay. You can take a few simple steps to manage bacteria and prevent tooth decay.

Brushing and flossing are essential. They remove built-up bacteria and the tiny bits of food the bacteria rely on. Brushing deals with most of the problem, and flossing is vital to prevent buildup in the nooks and crannies between your teeth.

Good oral hygiene at home is critical but not the only step you need to take. Visiting your dentist for an exam and teeth cleaning every six months also prevents tooth decay. Professional cleaning removes hardened plaque and tartar that accelerate tooth decay.

Tooth Decay Treatment

Once tooth decay wears away the enamel, it doesn’t grow back. This means that you’ll need treatment to protect your teeth from future tooth decay and other dental issues.

If you have a cavity, a dental filling is generally the right treatment. Filling the cavity prevents the hole from becoming larger and also ensures that bacteria can’t take shelter from brushing and flossing.

Today, composite fillings provide the same protection without the conspicuous appearance of metal amalgam fillings. Instead of leaving a noticeable silver spot on the repaired tooth, composite fillings blend seamlessly and match the shade of your teeth.

More serious tooth decay may call for a root canal. If a cavity has reached the inner layers of the tooth, the only way to prevent infection is to remove the vulnerable soft tissue inside.

You could also need a dental crown to restore the appearance and strength of a heavily decayed tooth. A porcelain crown provides a protective cap over your natural tooth, restoring your smile and preventing further decay.

Taking Care of Your Smile

If you want to take the best care of your smile, you need to keep up with routine exams and teeth cleaning. Cohen Dental Care in Great Neck and Briarwood can provide for all of your general dentistry needs. Reach out today to book your next appointment.