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What is tooth decay?

October 05, 2017

Tooth decay occurs when germs (bacteria) in plaque turn the sugars found in food and drinks into acid, which attacks the teeth. It affects everyone at all ages, and is first seen in children’s teeth. If plaque is allowed to build up, the plaque acid will dissolve the enamel and make a hole in the tooth (tooth decay).

Although early tooth decay may not cause any pain, common signs of dental decay include toothache, tooth sensitivity, tooth discolouration, bad breath or an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

Treatment of tooth decay depends on its severity. For early-stage decay, your Farnham dentist will talk to you about sugar in your diet and effective teeth cleaning at home. A fluoride gel, varnish or paste may be applied to the affected area. This protects teeth by strengthening the enamel and increasing its resistance to plaque acids.

You may have dental decay that is severe enough to require a filling. In this case your Elmsleigh House dentist will use local anaesthesia to numb the area before treatment, and will then remove the decay. Filling materials have developed a great deal since the original gold and  silver amalgam fillings. Modern alternatives such as white plastic fillings offer both an aesthetic and a functional solution – they are very strong and nearly invisible. 

If tooth decay has spread to the pulp (the centre of your tooth containing blood and nerves), the dental pulp will need to be removed in a process known as root canal (or endodontic) treatmentThis treatment is best carried out by a Specialist in endodontics - at Elmsleigh House Dental Clinic we have two Specialists in endodontics in Farnham: Shashi Mishra and Somayeh Modarres-SimmonsThey will make a small hole in your tooth with the aid of an operating microscope to keep the hole as small as possible. This gains access to the infected pulp and to the bacteria within the root canals, usually under local anaesthesia. The goal is to clean and shape the root canal, and then fill the space to reduce the risk of bacteria getting in again.

In another blog we will look at ten top tips to prevent tooth decay.

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