What is tooth decay and why does it happen?

The part of your tooth structure that you can see in your mouth above the gum is made of different layers which are called enamel, dentine and pulp. Enamel is the hardest, strongest layer on the outside of the tooth. The inner layer is called dentine- this layer is not as strong as the outside layer. The innermost layer is called the pulp which contains the nerves and blood supply of the tooth. The tooth also has roots which are embedded in the jaw bone, they also contain the nerve and blood supply of the tooth. 

When you have frequent sugars in the diet such as sweets, chocolates, fizzy drinks, squash, tea/coffee with sugar, dried fruits, sugary cereals and so much more, these sugars fuel bacteria in the mouth to produce acids- which attack your teeth! The teeth then start to decay which is breakdown and weakening of the teeth, sometimes holes may start to form and often we call these “cavities" or "caries”. The teeth breakdown even faster when they are also not being cleaned very well.

What does decay look like? Sometimes you might see a brown soft hole in your tooth like the image below, sometimes you might see a very white area on the tooth which has decay inside of the tooth.

Will I always notice that I have decay in my teeth if this happens? No not always, sometimes this happens in between the teeth where you cannot see it or under the hard outer layer of the tooth where only a dentist might see it. Regular examination/check-up appointments with your dentist will help to check if you have tooth decay.

Will I need any X-rays? Yes, sometimes the dentist may advise to have X-rays taken to check if you have any hidden tooth decay.

Will it hurt if I develop tooth decay? Tooth decay in the very early stages often doesn’t hurt at all, however some patients may get some pain when drinking or eating.

Will it hurt if the decay gets a lot worse? Yes, if the decay gets worse you can start getting toothache and this can be pain that is there all the time and you may need to contact us for an urgent appointment.

We recommend that you attend for your dental check-ups regularly or as often as your dentist advices you to come in. This is so that the dentist can pick up on early tooth decay and offer you preventative advice and possible treatment before any tooth decay occurs or before it becomes any worse. This would mean less treatment needed and remaining free of dental pain!