Tooth decay is usually a slow process which is the result of plaque in your mouth combining with sugars in your food to create an acid that deteriorates the structure of the tooth. It is most common in children due to their high sugar intake and poor oral hygiene, but in reality can happen to just about anyone. If it is not treated in a reasonable amount of time, tooth decay can create a cavity which can cause discomfort, infection or even tooth loss, resulting in the need for dental implants.
It may be difficult to notice at first because the most noticeable signs and symptoms of tooth decay don’t usually show up until a cavity has formed on the tooth. To get a better understanding as to why that is, you must know the three upper layers that each tooth is made of:
- Enamel – the white visible part of a tooth. This is a solid outer layer that protects the tooth from external forces.
- Dentin – a yellowish middle layer that is harder than bones but softer than enamel. This layer makes up the majority of the tooth.
- Dental Pulp – this is the soft interior part of a tooth made up of nerves and blood vessels.
Although there may be some visible signs of tooth decay in it’s early stages, most people won’t realize until it advances into the inner layers of the tooth, eventually causing pain and discomfort.
Early Signs Of Tooth Decay
Like any health issue, it is always best to notice the problem early on in order to fix it quickly. Tooth decay is most noticeable at early stages when it occurs on the front teeth because you should be able to see some discoloration to the tooth. If, however, the tooth effected is a molar, or the area of the tooth effected is on the side of the tooth, it is very unlikely that you will be able to see the decay without the use of specialized instruments like an x-ray.
Some early warning signs that you may be experiencing tooth decay include:
- white, brown or black staining on the effected tooth
- bad breath caused by excessive bacteria in your mouth
These are subtle warning signs but if you do notice any of them you should visit a dentist right away for further examination. If in fact it is tooth decay, your dentist will be able to give you a simple early tooth decay treatment to stop it from progressing into something much worse.
Advanced Tooth Decay Symptoms
If you don’t notice tooth decay in it’s early stages when most of the signs are only visual, you will definitely begin to notice it later on as it begins to cause pain and discomfort. As a cavity progresses and begins penetrating the dentin, and eventually your dental pulp, the nerves within the effected tooth will become exposed causing some degree of discomfort.
The most common signs that you have tooth decay which has progressed to a later stage include:
- toothache or other tooth sensitivity from exposed nerves
- mild to severe pain when consuming hot, cold or sweet food and drinks
- pain when you put any amount of pressure on the effected tooth
- visible holes and soft spots on the effected tooth
- swelling in the surrounding gum tissue. This indicates that you have severe tooth decay and need to visit a dentist right away.
Noticing any of the warning signs above warrants immediate call to action. If you allow tooth decay to progress for too long you may require a filling, root canal or tooth extraction in the worst case scenario. Don’t let it get to the worst point because severe tooth decay can lead to an abscess which is a far worse problem than just having a repairable cavity.