Tooth decay is among the most common causes of toothaches and tooth pain. If left untreated, tooth decay can lead to an infected (abscessed) tooth that must be removed. If left untreated, tooth decay can lead to an infected (abscessed) tooth that must be removed. But avoiding serious tooth decay is simple if you know the signs and follow a complete oral care routine.
What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay occurs when the plaque is not brushed away regularly. Acids in the plaque start to eat through the tooth enamel, causing a cavity. In the early stages of tooth decay, a cavity can be repaired by a dental filling, but advanced tooth decay may require a root canal to remove decayed material that has reached the center of the tooth. (1)
Signs of Tooth Decay
Early signs of tooth decay include tooth pain and sensitivity, but these problems may not occur until a cavity has formed. Tooth decay also may cause fillings to become loose, or your teeth may feel especially sensitive when you eat very hot, cold, or sweet foods. Tooth pain while chewing can also indicate tooth decay. Signs of severe tooth decay include persistent, throbbing pain, a fever, and swelling in the jaw. (1)(2)
Tooth Decay Treatment
The treatment for early-stage tooth decay is to fill the cavity. Once you have a filling, following a regular oral care routine can help to prevent additional decay. [good place for a product mention]If the tooth decay has reached the tooth pulp, you may need a root canal to remove the decay and preserve the tooth. (1)(2)
Toothbrushing Basics Can Help Prevent Tooth Decay
One of the best ways to help prevent tooth decay is to brush your teeth twice daily. But according to a survey of 1000 American adults conducted by the American Dental Association and Crest, one out of five admits to not brushing their teeth twice a day. In addition, only half of the survey respondents reported flossing their teeth daily, and 43% reported not knowing when to replace a toothbrush. (3)
Follow these steps for good toothbrushing technique, and you will go a long way toward preventing tooth decay:
- The Right Tools: Choose a toothbrush that is the right size and shape for your mouth.
- The Right Technique: Hold your toothbrush at approximately a 45-degree angle to the gums. Use short strokes to move the brush across each tooth.
- The Right Territory: Be sure to brush all sides of your teeth—the inner and outer sides and the surface where you chew. To reach the inner surfaces of the teeth, angle your brush to use the bristles at the front end, and move the brush up and down.
- The Right Timing: Spend approximately two minutes brushing your teeth. Try dividing your mouth into quadrants and spend 30 seconds each on the upper left, upper right, lower left, and lower right teeth.
- The Right Turnover: Replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if the bristles look bent and worn. (4)
In addition to following a regular oral care routine, visit a dentist twice a year for a checkup and professional cleaning to help prevent tooth decay and to identify problems before they becomes severe. (5)
- Crest/ADA survey