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Rotten Teeth: Signs, Symptoms, & Solutions

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Rotten teeth are not just unattractive; they can also lead to serious dental problems. Untreated tooth decay can lead to cavities, which become larger and affect deeper layers of your teeth. This can lead to severe toothaches, gum disease, infections, and even tooth loss.

What Causes Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is caused by dental plaque, which is a transparent sticky film that forms on your teeth. It occurs when we eat lots of sugars and starches and don’t clean our teeth properly afterwards. When these sugars and starches are not cleaned off our teeth, then bacteria are allowed to consume them, forming plaque.

If plaque is allowed to stay on your teeth, it can harden into tartar. Tartar provides a protective shield for the bacteria, making it more difficult for you to clean your teeth properly. Tartar can only be removed by your dentist or dental hygienist using specialized dental tools.

How Plaque Leads to Tooth Decay

Plaque is acidic, and when it is allowed to sit it slowly eats away at your enamel. This erosion creates tiny openings in the enamel, making the entire tooth more vulnerable. If plaque is allowed to completely wear away your enamel the bacteria and acid can gain access to the vulnerable inner layers of your tooth. The layer directly below your enamel is called the dentin. Dentin is much softer than enamel and less resistant to plaque and bacteria. It also contains tiny tubes that connect to the nerve of your tooth. Most patients begin to experience pain from a cavity once the decay has reached the dentin layer.

Once the bacteria have eaten through your dentin, it begins on the next layer, the pulp, which contains blood vessels and nerves. When bacteria attack the pulp, it becomes swollen and irritated. Since the hard enamel layer prevents the swollen tissue from expanding the swelling instead looks inwards, and presses down on your nerve. This causes pain and discomfort.

Signs and Symptoms of Tooth Decay

One of the most obvious signs of tooth decay is visible pits or holes in your enamel, as well as black, brown, or white staining on the surface of your tooth.

Symptoms of tooth decay include:

  • Tooth pain with no apparent cause
  • A toothache
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Pain while consuming foods that are hot, cold, or sweet
  • Pain when you bite down or chew

However, many patients do not necessarily realize that they are experiencing tooth decay until it reaches its later stages. Regular dental exams enable your dentist to examine your mouth for signs of decay and provide you with treatment before the problem progresses.

Solutions for Tooth Decay

The best thing you can do is prevent tooth decay in the first place. To do this, you should brush your teeth thoroughly, for at least two minutes at a time, and flossing at least once per day. You should also go for regular dental exams and cleanings.
Minor tooth decay can often be treated with a filling, and even more moderate tooth decay can be addressed using a root canal and crown. However, if your teeth become too decayed, or the decay is too widespread, the teeth will likely need to be removed and replaced with either standard dentures or implant supported dentures.

Dentures, including complete dentures and partial dentures, can replace rotten or decayed teeth and help you rediscover your beautiful smile, improving your quality of life and boosting your self-confidence.

Both complete and partial dentures can also be supported by dental implants. Implant supported dentures can give you increased stability, and do not need to be removed while eating. Dental implants fill the same role as the roots of your natural teeth did, which means they also help you maintain bone density and facial structure.

For more information about dentures and our denture process, including information on implant supported partial dentures and implant supported complete dentures, please visit our website or schedule a consultation.

Written by Wade Klimpke

Wade Klimpke is a past President and long-standing member of the College of Alberta Denturists. Wade leads a number of industry working groups which help advance and monitor old, current, and new industry developments. This has allowed him to gain a number of industry relationships with implant dentistry suppliers in Canada and the United States.
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