What do we mean when we talk about tooth decay?
In short: This most common type of damage to the teeth is caused by the acids released by bacteria growing in the mouth's biofilm layer (plaque).
The longer version: After every meal, a layer of biofilm remains on the teeth. If we fail to clean this plaque off on a regular basis, the mouth's normaflora bacteria (which are useful to us) are joined by harmful bacteria. These pose a double threat: they can cause decay of the teeth and inflammation of the gums or paradontitis. Tooth decay develops when the acids produced by the bacteria attack demineralized areas (those that have lost their mineral content).
How will I know when I have a problem with my teeth?
In the early stage of tooth decay, most patients notice that their teeth become sensitive to cold or sweet food; teeth that were once white also take on a brown colour with the onset of decay.
How can tooth decay be treated?
If the patient experiences sensitivity at the neck of the tooth where decay is not visible, this is usually caused by exposure of the surface of the root. These exposed areas of the tooth neck are only covered by cementum, which conducts heat much better than enamel. These cases have nothing to do with a lack of dental matter or tooth decay, so we recommend alternative treatments and different solutions. The sensitivity can be relieved by various varnishes and swabs that allow us to apply preventative treatment to the teeth, and there are also various fluoride toothpastes and foams that can be used effectively.
If a lack of dental matter has developed (often caused by tooth decay), however, the tooth can be filled in the initial phase. If the damage is so great that the pulp chamber is also effected, then root canal treatment becomes necessary. If the extent of the cavity is such that a filling would not be stable, then inlays or crowns made by an orthodontist can be fitted to the teeth.
Why is it important to start treatment in good time?
If no symptoms are present or the patient is only sensitive to cold, then the tooth can generally be treated with a small filling. If you experience sensitivity when biting, however, then we cannot be sure that a filling will be sufficient as root canal treatment may also be necessary. The sooner we "catch" the decay, the less the loss of tooth bulk will be, and the less unpleasant the treatment you can expect to receive.
Dr. Ujj Krisztina