On the outside surface of your teeth is the hardest substance in your body. Even bones are not as hard as tooth enamel. Yet, under the right circumstances tooth enamel can become weak and fall prey to the ravages of decay. It starts small, just a little pinprick of decay on the surface. If it isn’t taken care of, in time that little pinprick can grow into a problem that can, in some circumstances, become life threatening. However, with the proper intervention during the course of the process, the decayed tooth can be saved.
Genesis of a Decayed Tooth
Everyone has a mouth full of bacteria. There are hundreds of various kinds of bacteria ranging from good to awful. Saliva washes out some of the bacteria; tooth brushing and flossing also help. Still, there is a clear sticky substance called plaque that is constantly forming a film of bacteria. When these bacteria combine with sugary foods, acids are formed which begin to eat away at the tooth enamel.
While brushing and flossing do a lot to clean away the acids and plaque, there are tiny grooves and fissures in the teeth that are difficult to clean. In addition, if you eat a lot of foods high in sugar content or drink an abundance of high sugar beverages, you are in essence feeding the bad bacteria. You may see a white spot on your tooth where the minerals have been lost. This is the beginning of the decay process.
Interrupting the Process
At this point, damage can be prevented. The tooth can actually repair itself by using minerals from saliva and fluoride from toothpaste, water or other sources. However, if the process is not interrupted, the acids will eat through the enamel and attack the next layer of the tooth which is the dentin. Here, the decay spreads faster since dentin is much softer than the enamel.
Now the decayed tooth will need the intervention of the dentist to save it from further damage. A dark spot appears on the tooth and it may grow even darker as the process continues. The dentist will need to clean out all the decay and fill the tooth with an appropriate filling. But what if there is no intervention at this point?
The decay will make its way through the dentin and come to the pulp, the nerve center of the tooth. This is the point at which you will feel immense discomfort. As the nerves are attacked, the tooth begins to die. The pain can be so intense that you may just want the decayed tooth removed. Inflammation causes swelling and an abscess forms at the root of the tooth. If not handled promptly, infection from the abscess could enter the blood stream, causing a host of serious health problems.
Saving a Badly Decayed Tooth
When the pulp is involved, if there is enough tooth structure left, your dentist may advise root canal therapy. This entails eliminating the infection and removing the nerves of the tooth. Once the root canal has been completely cleaned out, it is sterilized and filled with a special material to keep bacteria from entering the tooth. It is then sealed off and the remainder of the tooth is filled appropriately. Since the tooth is no longer able to be nourished by the nerves, your dentist may suggest putting a crown on it to provide strength and stability.
At Village Park Family Dentistry, we believe in saving your natural teeth if at all possible. Even though dental prosthetics are suitable substitutions for missing teeth, we do not want you to lose any of your natural teeth unnecessarily. If you have a decayed tooth, no matter what stage it may be in, make an appointment with Village Park Family Dentistry. We may be able to save your decayed tooth and keep your smile looking bright and beautiful.