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Tooth decay or dental caries can look like black or brown marks on your teeth. It occurs from plaque and acid buildup typically caused by poor dental hygiene. It’s also referred to as cavities or rotten teeth.
Plaque contains bacteria and is a sticky, colorless film that develops on the teeth. When these bacteria are mixed with sugars in food, they produce an acid that eats away at teeth.
A decayed, rotten tooth can loosen and fall out if left untreated. To prevent this, it is essential to recognize the causes and symptoms of rotten teeth.
Some cavities can go unnoticed with no symptoms, so it is essential to arrange regular dentist visits. A general dentist can treat cavities early to prevent further tooth rot.
An untreated cavity can become larger and eventually affect the deeper layers of a tooth. Aside from a hole, other symptoms of a rotten tooth include:
There are various causes of rotten teeth. Understanding what leads to decay can help prevent future oral health issues. If you are unsure why your teeth are decaying, see a dentist as soon as possible.
Poor dental hygiene is one of the most common causes of rotten teeth. Regular brushing and flossing are essential to remove plaque and keep your teeth strong and healthy.
Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily. You should also visit your dentist twice a year for professional dental cleanings.
A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can contribute to tooth rot because these foods linger on the teeth. Sugar also feeds bacteria.
Without brushing your teeth regularly, the acid in your mouth can increase. It won't be long before you'll notice a faster breakdown of your tooth enamel.
Additionally, drinking too many acidic beverages such as soda and having acid reflux can lead to tooth decay. The acids can slowly dissolve tooth enamel.
If your salivary glands don’t create enough saliva to wash away plaque and bacteria, you may have more plaque and acid in your mouth.1 This increases the risk of rotten teeth.
Dry mouth is a potential side effect of a few factors, including:
Tooth rot can also develop if you have deep dental crevices. These grooves can make it more challenging to brush your teeth effectively.
If plaque lingers in these grooves, it can eat away at your tooth’s surface. Consider asking your dentist to apply a dental sealant to your teeth to prevent plaque buildup.
Fluoride is a natural mineral. It can strengthen your tooth enamel, making it resistant to decay.
Fluoride is mixed with public water supplies but is not usually found in bottled water. If you do not use fluoride toothpaste or drink from your local water supply, there is a risk of tooth decay.
Tooth decay can also develop early if your child falls asleep with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice in their mouth. It can also occur if you dip your child’s pacifier in sugar or honey. In both circumstances, sugar can gather around the teeth and contribute to rot.
The treatment for rotten teeth is usually the same for adults and children. Saving the tooth is the treatment goal.
Your dentist may use a fluoride treatment in the early stages of tooth rot, including small cavities. This can strengthen or remineralize the tooth.
However, this method only works for smaller cavities and is ineffective once other rotting signs develop. For example, dark or white spots on the tooth and bad breath.
When fluoride treatment is not an option, your dentist may remove decayed parts of the tooth. They will place a dental filling or dental crown to fill any holes in the tooth.
For a filling, your dentist typically uses a tooth-colored composite resin. Or, they may use an amalgam filling like mercury, silver, or other metal. Amalgam fillings are typically only placed on baby teeth.
You may require a root canal if the decay has spread to the middle of the tooth and there is inflammation or an infection. Root canals remove the infected nerve and pulp.
Once the infection has been removed, they’ll fill and seal the space. If a tooth can’t be saved because of severe rot, your dentist may extract it and replace it with:
A dentist will be able to see the early signs of cavities and other dental problems. If you experience one or more symptoms of tooth decay, see a dentist immediately.
It may be challenging to know if you have a cavity. This is why it’s important to have regular dental checkups and cleanings.
Over the years, teeth can wear down, and gums may recede. This makes teeth more vulnerable to root decay.
People at risk of tooth decay include:
Symptoms of a rotten tooth for children are generally the same for adults. However, they may experience other symptoms, such as:
These symptoms indicate an infection. If your child seems irritable and cannot demonstrate the location of the pain and discomfort, check inside their mouth for signs of tooth rot.
Cavities and tooth decay can have severe and lasting complications, even for children who do not yet have permanent teeth.
Risks and complications of rotten teeth may include:
When decay becomes more severe, you may experience:
In rare circumstances, a tooth abscess may develop. It’s a pocket of pus caused by bacterial infection. A tooth abscess can lead to more severe or life-threatening conditions like sepsis.
The earliest stages of tooth decay can be stopped or reversed. One of the signs of this early stage is a white spot on your teeth where minerals have been lost.
Tooth enamel can repair itself using minerals from various sources, such as:2
You can prevent rotten teeth by maintaining good oral and dental hygiene. It also helps to visit your dentist regularly to prevent other dental health conditions from developing early on.
Here are some tips you can follow to avoid rotten teeth:1
Rotten teeth are caused by plaque and acid buildup in the mouth. If left untreated, a decayed tooth can loosen and fall out.
Tooth decay is often caused by poor oral hygiene. However, other factors can cause tooth decay, such as high sugar diets, fluoride deficiencies, and dry mouth.
You can prevent tooth decay by practicing good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist at least twice a year. Your dentist may perform a fluoride treatment, dental filling procedure, or root canal to treat tooth decay.
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