woman holding the side of her jaw possibly experiencing tooth pain from infection or decay

How to Identify and Prevent Signs of Tooth Decay

Our Red Deer dentists explain the common causes, treatments and implications of tooth decay which can eventually lead to tooth loss.

Tooth decay refers to damage to the enamel, which is the hard, outer layer that protects the tooth from harmful temperatures and chemicals. When enamel is damaged, a cavity, which is a hole in the tooth, can form. Left untreated, cavities grow larger and can lead to tooth infection and even tooth loss. Here’s what you need to know about tooth decay and cavities. Getting yourself in for a regular checkup or, at the very least, when you’ve noticed discomfort could save your tooth!

What causes tooth decay?

The principal culprit when it comes to tooth decay is plaque. Plaque is a thin, sticky film that develops when remnants from foods containing sugars and starches are left on the teeth. The bacteria in plaque produce acids that over time eat away at the enamel. 

Plaque isn’t, however, a problem in itself. It’s normal for plaque to form on teeth. It’s only an issue if it isn’t removed in a timely manner and before it hardens into tartar.


How is tooth decay prevented?

The best way to ward off tooth decay and cavities is to brush and floss regularly. This prevents plaque from hardening and damaging the enamel.

Being careful about what you eat and drink is another important aspect of preventing tooth decay. Try to limit foods that are high in sugar and starch, especially sticky foods that cling to the teeth. 

How is tooth decay treated?

When caught in time, cavities are usually treated with a filling. The decayed area of the tooth is removed and replaced with a filling composed of porcelain, dental amalgam, silver, gold or composite resins. 

What are the signs of tooth decay?

If a cavity is on a surface of the tooth that you can readily see, it may appear dark brown or black. If it is a bigger cavity, you will likely notice a hole (and food may get stuck in that hole). However, the majority of cavities form in-between your teeth and are reliably detected with x-rays and dental instruments used by the dentist. If sufficiently deep, you may notice sensitivity to sweet and/or hot and cold foods.

It’s important that cavities are recognized and treated early, before they become extensive and require more invasive and expensive treatment. 


What happens when you ignore tooth decay?

The longer tooth decay goes untreated, the worse and more painful it gets. It eventually leads to the tooth becoming abscessed. This is an infection of the dental pulp which usually has to be treated with a root canal.


Emergency dental care in Red Deer

If you suspect you have a cavity, it’s important that you see a dentist right away. At Parkland Mall Dental Centre, our dentists understand this. It’s why we offer emergency dental care and extended hours. For a dentist and dental clinic in Red Deer that takes your oral health needs to heart, become a patient at Parkland Mall Dental Centre.