Dental Decay: Introduction FeedbackA general introduction to Dental Decay.Source: NHS Choices, 30 May 2014
Tooth decay is a common problem that occurs when acids in your mouth dissolve the outer layers of your teeth.
It is also known as dental decay or dental caries.
Although levels of tooth decay have decreased over the last few decades, it is still one of the most widespread health problems in the UK.
It's estimated that around one in every three adults in England have tooth decay and a survey of five year old children carried out in 2012 found that more than one in four had some degree of tooth decay.
Signs and symptoms
Tooth decay may not cause any symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage. As the problem develops, symptoms of tooth decay can include:
- tooth sensitivity – you may feel tenderness or pain when eating or drinking something hot, cold or sweet
- grey, brown or black spots appearing on your teeth
- bad breath
- an unpleasant taste in your mouth
When to see your dentist
Toothache is a warning that something is wrong and that you should visit your dentist as soon as possible. If you ignore the problem it may get worse, and you could end up losing a tooth.
Even if you don't have any noticeable problems with your teeth, it is still important to have regular dental check-ups so your dentist can check for early signs of decay. Tooth decay is much easier to treat in its early stages.
Adults over 18 should have a check-up at least once every two years and people under the age of 18 should have a check-up at least once a year. Your dentist may suggest having more frequent check-ups if you have had a history of dental problems, or you are thought to be at a higher risk of developing tooth decay.
Dentists can usually identify tooth decay by examining your teeth, although occasionally an X-ray may be carried out to check for any cavities or abscesses.
What causes tooth decay?
Your mouth is full of bacteria that combine with small food particles and saliva to form a sticky film known as plaque.
When you consume food and drink high in carbohydrates – particularly sugary foods and drinks – the bacteria in plaque turn the carbohydrates into energy they need, producing acid at the same time.
If the plaque is allowed to build up, the acid can begin to break down the outer surface of your tooth and can eventually enter and damage the soft part at the centre of the tooth.
Read more about the causes of tooth decay.
How to prevent tooth decay
Although tooth decay is a common problem, it is often entirely preventable. The best way to avoid tooth decay is to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible.
To do this, you should:
- brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, spending at least two minutes each time
- use floss or an interdental toothbrush at least once a day to clean between your teeth and under the gum line
- avoid rinsing your mouth with water or mouthwash after brushing because this washes the protective toothpaste away – just spit out any excess toothpaste
- cut down on sugary and starchy food and drinks, particularly between meals or within an hour of going to bed
Read more about preventing tooth decay.
How tooth decay is treated
If you see your dentist when the decay is in the early stages, your dentist may apply a fluoride varnish to the area to help stop further decay.
If the decay has worn away the outer layer of your tooth and caused a cavity, your dentist will remove the decay and refill the hole in your tooth with a filling. If the nerve in the middle of your tooth is damaged, you may need root canal treatment, which involves removing the nerve and restoring the tooth with a filling or crown.
If the tooth is so badly damaged that it cannot be restored, it may need to be removed.
Read more about treating tooth decay.
Dental Decay: Guidance FeedbackThe most relevant search results for Dental Decay from producers of guidance information.
Oral health: approaches for local authorities and their partners to improve the oral health of their communities - guidance (PH55)National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 22 October 2014
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 01 October 2004
Information for the public
Dental Decay: Information for the public FeedbackThe most relevant search results for Dental Decay, from Department of Health accredited producers of patient information.
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This guideline addresses effective strategies for preventing and managing dental decay in the pre-school child. The nature of dental decay and its diagnosis are discussed, along with the epidemiology of the disease. Methods of preventing and
Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, 01 November 2005 - Publisher: Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) - Publication type: Guidance
...content Sealants for preventing dental decay in the permanent teeth Anneli...fissure sealants for preventing dental decay in the permanent teeth of children...fissure sealants for preventing dental decay in the permanent teeth of children...
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 28 March 2013 - Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
Pit and fissure sealants versus fluoride varnishes for preventing dental decay in children and adolescents
...in the prevention of dental decays. The aim of this...in the prevention of dental decay on occlusal surfaces...prevention of occlusal decays. However, current...in the prevention of dental decay on occlusal surfaces...
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 17 March 2010 - Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
...devices for the control of dental decay Brian C Bonner 1...term (MeSH) #4. DENTAL ENAMEL SOLUBILITY single...caries or carious or decay* or cavit*) #6...near releas*) and (dental or caries or fluoride...
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 18 October 2006 - Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
[Cochrane review update "Pit and fissure sealants for preventing dental decay in the permanent teeth of children and adolescents"]
...review update "Pit and fissure sealants for preventing dental decay in the permanent teeth of children and adolescents...Index terms Adolescent; Child; Child, Preschool; Dental Caries; Humans; Pit and Fissure Sealants; Young Adult
Health Technology Assessment Database, 27 October 2010 - Publisher: Centre for Reviews and Dissemination - Publication type: Health technology assessments
Pit and fissure sealants for preventing dental decay in the permanent teeth in children and adolescents
...Bibliographic details Pit and fissure sealants for preventing dental decay in the permanent teeth in children and adolescents...CRD Index terms Adolescent; Child; control; Dental Caries /prevention & Humans; Pit and Fissure Sealants...
Health Technology Assessment Database, 15 December 2007 - Publisher: Centre for Reviews and Dissemination - Publication type: Health technology assessments
Seal or Varnish? A randomised trial to determine the relative cost and effectiveness of pit and fissure sealants and fluoride varnish in preventing dental decay
...fissure sealants and fluoride varnish in preventing dental decay. Health Technology Assessment 0 Status This...Subject indexing assigned by CRD Index terms Dental Caries; Dental Enamel; Fluorides, Topical; Humans; Pit and Fissure...
Health Technology Assessment Database, 08 June 2011 - Publisher: Centre for Reviews and Dissemination - Publication type: Health technology assessments
Brief oral health promotion intervention among parents of young children to reduce early childhood dental decay.
...children to reduce early childhood dental decay. Links Author(s) Arrow... BACKGROUND: Severe untreated dental decay affects a child's growth...development of oral diseases, particularly dental caries. The parent/caregiver...
Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, John Wiley & Sons Ltd - Publisher: BMC public health
Protocol for "Seal or Varnish?" (SoV) trial: a randomised controlled trial to measure the relative cost and effectiveness of pit and fissure sealants and fluoride varnish in preventing dental decay.
...and fluoride varnish in preventing dental decay. Links Author(s) Chestnutt... 51 Abstract BACKGROUND: Dental caries remains a significant public...effectiveness of PFS and FV in preventing dental caries in first permanent molars...
Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, John Wiley & Sons Ltd - Publisher: BMC oral health
Policy paper: Upcoming surveys to measure prevalence and severity of dental decay in three year olds
...measure prevalence and severity of dental decay in three year olds From: Department...epidemiology surveys are set to measure the dental health of 3-year-olds in England...to directors of public health and dental public health PDF, 34.2KB...
GOV.UK, 30 October 2012 - Publisher: Department of Health
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