What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay is also called dental caries. It’s a disease that causes damage to tooth structure.
If bits of food are left on the teeth after a drink or meal, the germs in your mouth (called plaque) can turn those tiny bits of food into acid. Over time, this acid eats away at the surface of the tooth, creating holes or ‘cavities’.
Tooth decay can cause pain, infection and even affect children’s growth. Severe decay in baby teeth can have serious consequences for your child’s speech and jaw development.
The longer tooth decay is left untreated, the more your child will experience:
pain and discomfort
a higher risk of new decay in other baby and adult teeth
more complicated and expensive treatment
anxiety when he does visit a dentist, because he might start to associate dentists with pain
loss of time at school.
Early signs of tooth decay
Early tooth decay can be hard to spot.
The first sign of tooth decay is when the upper incisors develop a dull, white band along the gum line (the area at the base of the tooth, near the gums). You might see brown spots on the teeth, and the gums might be red and swollen. In more advanced stages of tooth decay, blackened areas show up on the teeth, with the gums still looking red and swollen.
Decay may or may not cause discomfort; even though it doesn’t hurt, the tooth is deteriorating.
Using higher magnification and powerful lighting, it is easier to detect decay at an early stage to prevent excessive tooth damage. When cavities are small, they are much easier and less expensive to treat.
Early tooth decay does not tend to show many physical signs. Sometimes the tooth looks healthy, but your dentist will be able to see from an x-ray whether you have any decay under the enamel, any possible infections in the roots, or any bone loss around the tooth.