Tooth decay is an elusive demon, good at creeping up on you and good at staying hidden until ready to reveal itself in the form of several unpleasant symptoms.
The evolution of tooth decay
Once tooth decay begins, harmful bacteria and acid will dominate your teeth and make its way next to the pulp – which is simply the inner tooth material (containing nerves and blood vessels).
Once the bacteria irritates and causes the pulp to swell, the pain will emerge and likely cause you a lot of suffering that may or may not limit itself to your teeth but extend to your general wellbeing as a result of your body trying to fight back.
In an effort to respond to the decay, your body often responds by sending white blood cells to tackle the infection which can lead to a lump of puss – the result of a bacterial infection, otherwise known as an abscess.
What you put in your mouth – In this day and age we’re wiser than ever on the foods and drinks that are going to cause damage in copious amounts, but just in case you missed out on this info, a few examples are foods high in sugar, fizzy carbonated, sugary drinks, alcohol such as red wine and tea and coffee which heavily stain the teeth.
Poor brushing skills – Many of us find excuses to avoid brushing our teeth for the recommended time and even brushing them at all, with 25% of adults failing to brush their teeth twice a day.
The location of specific teeth – The teeth most susceptible to tooth decay are found hidden away at the back of your mouth – these are molars and premolars – containing intricate pockets in which food particles can make themselves at home. They then begin to form layers of plaque which give way to bacteria which generate the acid that leads to tooth enamel.
Spot the signs
Tooth decay will manifest itself with symptoms that include:
- Sharp and uncomfortable pains experienced when eating or drinking – specifically sweet food and drink.
- Holes in your teeth.
- Staining of a brown, white or black colour around the surface of a tooth.
- Pain when grinding your teeth or applying pressure to teeth (biting down on them).
If you’re worried you might have tooth decay, do not delay in making an appointment with your dentist, even if you’re last check-up was less than 6 months ago. Only half of adults in the UK visit the dentist the recommended twice a year, which perhaps explains the 74% of adults who have had a tooth extracted.