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Nobody loves going to the dentist, but the check-up visits are there for a reason. Beginning tooth decay can be detected by the dentist or dental hygienist so you can do something about it. By treating tooth decay early, you can prevent a lot of pain, trouble and high bills and keep you going through life with a radiant smile for longer.
Your teeth are made up of a core of living tissue. Connective tissue, blood vessels and nerves make up the pulp. Around it is a layer of soft and sensitive dentine. The outer layer of your teeth is tooth enamel. Enamel is hard and shiny and protects the underlying tissue from the effects of plaque. Eating, drinking and saliva create a layer of plaque on your teeth. This contains bacteria that convert sugars into acids. Tooth enamel can dissolve due to the acids from these bacteria or those from your food. This can cause cavities, caries. The longer it takes to treat a cavity, the more likely it is that tooth decay will penetrate into the pulp. Eventually, your teeth may fall out.
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Tooth decay, depending partly on its stage, has more and less obvious symptoms. Do you suffer from cavities, with or without toothache, bleeding gums, smelling out of your mouth, tooth sensitivity when you eat or drink something hot or cold, or discolouration on your teeth? Then you probably suffer from tooth decay.
In early stage tooth decay, only your tooth enamel is affected. You won’t notice this yourself, but your dentist or dental hygienist will see it at check-ups. Fortunately, you can allow these superficial cavities to heal naturally. We call this remineralisation. If you don’t take the right measures, the cavity will get bigger and you will enter the second stage.
The cavity has spread to your dentin. Your tooth is irritated or hurts. You only now notice something is wrong yourself, but the decay is already at a more advanced stage. Without treatment, this cavity will no longer heal.
One step further, your pulp is also affected. This tissue is well supplied with blood and full of nerves. The latter cause severe tooth or molar pain. The blood vessels also give bad bacteria a much better chance to cause a hefty infection. This is where you really need to see your dentist, and fast.
The tooth decay has penetrated the jawbone or gums. If you haven’t taken anything against the pain by now, your pain threshold is huge. A huge abscess may form around your tooth that causes this tooth to fall out of your mouth. Only for baby teeth will a new one grow back, so call your dentist immediately to save what’s left!
In the early stages of tooth decay, you don’t notice anything yet, but have a lot of renimeralisation to do. Your body does this automatically, as long as you take good care of your mouth. This starts with good daily oral hygiene. So brush twice a day, but especially use interdental brushes and floss for the difficult spots.
By eating at most five times a day and chewing well, you give your teeth a chance to recover. Drinks such as soft drinks and fruit juices are sugar-filled acid bombs, so they are best avoided. Do drink enough, as plaque loves a dry mouth. Smoking is also disastrous for your teeth.
What is sensible: go to the dentist for a check-up every six months. He or she can then intervene in time so that you can enjoy a radiant smile for a long time to come.
Frequently asked questions
What are the different stages of tooth decay?
Tooth decay is divided into different stages, from early to advanced. The more layers that are affected (enamel, dentin, pulp, jawbone/dental tissue), the more advanced the tooth decay and the more difficult the recovery.
How can I recognise tooth decay at an early stage?
An early stage of tooth decay can only be seen by a dentist or dental hygienist. This therefore does not include any complaints. So the periodic check-up is very important to detect it. Most early cavities can be repaired by your body with the right measures.
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