Tooth Decay

Consistency of a person’s saliva also makes a difference; thinner saliva breaks up and washes away food more quickly. When a person eats diets high in carbohydrates and sugars they tend to have thicker saliva, which in turn allows more of the acid-producing bacteria that can cause cavities.

Tips for cavity prevention:

  • Limit Frequency of meals and snacks
  • Encourage brushing, flossing and rinsing
  • Watch what you drink
  • Avoid sticky foods
  • Make treats part of meals
  • Choose nutritious snacks

The progression of decay

1. This slide shows the anatomy of a healthy tooth The enamel is the hard shell (the natural “crown” of the tooth). This covers the dentin which makes up the main body and root Structure of the tooth.

The living part of the tooth (the nerves and blood vessels) lie in the canals of the roots. The bone supporting structure surrounds the roots.

Healthy Tooth

2. If the enamel is attacked by the acid created by the combining of bacteria and sugar, the broken surface will allow more bacteria to accumulate.

At this stage early detection by your dentist will be easy to treat.

Early Stages of Tooth Decay

3. As the decay breaches the enamel the dentine is attacked and rapid lateral progress undermines the enamel shell.

Even at this stage there may be minimal discomfort from the tooth.

Mid Stages of Tooth Decay

4. The bacteria are now approaching the pulp, or living part of the tooth. This causes irritation to the nerve tissue which becomes inflamed.

This tooth will most likely be sensitive to hot and cold, and with swift intervention, it may still be possible to restore this tooth without further damage to the nerve.

Late Stages of Tooth Decay

5. Eventually the living tissue is invaded by the bacteria and dies. The necrotic tissue will in turn irritate the rest of the pulp chamber until the bacteria break through into the bone below the tip of the root.

This tooth would be most commonly be causing persistent, lingering and spontaneous toothache.

Late Stages of Tooth Decay with Dead Tissue

6. Once spread into the bone the tooth will be tender to touch, and eventually swelling of the gums or face will signal the infection has progressed to the bone. At this stage the decision must be made whether to extract the tooth to remove the cause of the infection of the bone or to save the tooth by removal of the rotten tissue inside the canals of the tooth. If the dead tissue and bacteria can be removed, and the canal sterilised and sealed the “tooth and root and all” can be restored with root canal treatment, a post and core and a full crown.

Late Stages of Tooth Decay with Diseased Bone