What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is a common problem that occurs when acids in your mouth dissolve the outer layers of your teeth. It is also known as dental decay or dental caries.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Toothache
  • Sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet
  • Dark spots appearing on your teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Unpleasant taste

Toothache is a warning that something is wrong and that you should visit your dentist as soon as possible. If you ignore the problem it may get worse, and you could end up losing a tooth.

Dentists can usually identify tooth decay by examining your teeth, although occasionally an X-ray may be carried out to check for any cavities or abscesses.

What causes tooth decay?

​Your mouth is full of bacteria that combine with small food particles and saliva to form a sticky film known as plaque. When you consume sugary foods and drinks – the bacteria in plaque produce acid. If the plaque is allowed to build up, the acid can begin to break down the outer surface of your tooth and can eventually cause a hole.

How to prevent tooth decay:

The best way to avoid tooth decay is to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible.

You should:

  • Brush your teeth for at least two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day.
  • Use dental floss or an interdental toothbrush at least once a day to clean between your teeth.
  • Don’t rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash after brushing because this will wash away the protective toothpaste – just spit out any excess toothpaste.
  • Try to cut down on sugary food and drinks, particularly between meals or within an hour of going to bed.

How tooth decay is treated:

If you see your dentist when the decay is in the early stages, your dentist may apply a fluoride varnish to the area to help stop further decay. If the decay has worn away the outer layer of your tooth and caused a cavity, your dentist will remove the decay and place a fill