Tooth decay

Tooth decay is damage to your tooth’s enamel that can lead to cavities. The good news is tooth decay can be stopped before it requires professional dental treatment. Speak with your Aspen Dental dentist to learn more.  

What causes tooth decay

Tooth decay happens to most of us in our lifetimes. It’s caused by the sugar from the foods we eat, which turns into acid and begins to break down the outer protective layer of our teeth.

You’ve probably heard of plaque—it’s the sticky bacteria that breaks down the protective enamel on our teeth. When it’s not removed properly, it causes tooth decay and cavities can begin to form. That’s why it’s important to visit your Aspen Dental dentist for regular checkups and dental cleanings to remove harmful plaque—and restore your teeth to their optimal health. 

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Tooth decay symptoms

At Aspen Dental, we recommend you visit your dentist annually for regular checkups and cleanings. If you’re showing signs of decay, we’ll help you address them quickly to prevent any further damage.

The sooner you spot tooth decay, the less damage it will cause to your teeth. Be on the lookout for these symptoms:

Is tooth decay contagious?

Tooth decay isn’t contagious in the same way you can catch a cold. It can, however, be spread from tooth to tooth and person to person. Think of it like this: a cavity between your tooth from not flossing can often cause a cavity on the next tooth. You should also avoid sharing items like utensils and toothbrushes that can transfer bacteria.

First signs to advanced warnings

Stages of tooth decay

Tooth decay doesn’t happen overnight. If you know the symptoms, you and your Aspen Dental care team can take action to keep things from getting worse. Tooth decay can be different for everyone. It depends on factors such as oral hygiene practices, diet, genetics and your overall health.

Here are the key stages to watch for when it comes to tooth decay:

Initial demineralization
Enamel decay

Tooth decay treatment

The best way to treat tooth decay? Your Aspen Dental care team will develop a treatment plan based on the severity of the damage. Let’s take a look at several care options:

Flouride treatment

For early-stage tooth decay, fluoride treatments can help re-mineralize the enamel and prevent further progression. Fluoride strengthens the teeth, making them more resistant to acid attacks and decay. 

Dental fillings

If a cavity has formed, dental fillings are a common treatment option. Your Aspen Dental dentist will remove the decayed portion of the tooth and fill the area with a durable and natural-looking material, such as composite resin.

Dental crowns

If the decay has caused significant damage, a dental crown may be needed. A crown is a custom-made cap that covers the entire visible portion of the tooth. It provides protection, restores strength and improves the tooth’s appearance. 

Tooth extraction and replacement

Although that sounds a bit scary, there are always tooth replacement options. Your Aspen Dental care team will develop a treatment plan based on the severity of the damage.

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Tooth decay self-care

Healthier teeth mean a happier you. Follow these steps to keep tooth decay at bay: 

Tooth decay FAQs

Tooth decay is the gradual damage of enamel by the acid found in plaque bacteria. Cavities are actual holes in the teeth that occur when tooth decay is untreated—which is why it’s important to see your Aspen Dental dentist as soon as you detect decay. 

Yes, risk factors include poor oral hygiene, excessive sugar intake, dry mouth, frequent snacking and lack of fluoride in your water supply.

In its early stages, tooth decay may be reversible through remineralization using fluoride toothpaste or professional treatments. As it progresses, tooth decay may require more advanced treatments such as fillings, crowns, root canals and possible extraction to prevent further complications.

Sticking to a low-sugar diet and keeping up with your oral hygiene routine can help prevent tooth decay. It’s best to schedule regular visits to your local Aspen Dental for exams and cleanings.

Dental sealants are thin coatings that are painted in the grooves of your molars to protect them from decay-causing bacteria. They are great at preventing cavities in the hard-to-reach spots of those back teeth. 

Untreated tooth decay can lead to pain and infection, potentially contributing to other health issues. These include heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other conditions.

To stop tooth decay, practice good oral hygiene by brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice daily, flossing regularly and using mouthwash. You should also limit sugary and acidic food and drinks.

Visit your local dentist for dental check-ups and cleanings annually.

Tooth decay is primarily caused by acid-producing bacteria in the mouth. It attacks teeth when we consume too many sugary and starchy foods, producing acids that erode tooth enamel. Poor oral hygiene, frequent snacking, sugary beverages and lack of fluoride contribute to bacterial growth, leading to cavities and decay. 

It depends on the extent of damage. Small cavities can be treated with dental fillings, while larger ones may need dental crowns. Severe cases might require root canal therapy or tooth extraction. It's important to see your Aspen Dental team regularly to identify and treat decay early.  

You may notice white spots on the enamel, indicating demineralization. As it progresses, brown or black spots form, indicating deeper decay. Cavities may develop, causing visible holes on the tooth’s surface. In advanced stages, your tooth may become sensitive, painful or uncomfortable. If you notice any changes to your teeth or experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment at your local Aspen Dental right away.

Maintain excellent oral hygiene by brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily and using mouthwash is key. You’ll also want to limit sugary and acidic foods and visit your local Aspen Dental for regular checkups and cleanings. Catching tooth decay early can help prevent further spread.  

Yes, tooth decay can be seen on an X-ray. In its early stages, decay appears as dark spots or shadows on the X-ray image. As it progresses, cavities become visible as large dark areas on any surface of your teeth. X-rays help us detect decay hidden from the naked eye, allowing us to start treatment before it gets worse. 

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Understanding what causes tooth decay and how to prevent it can keep your smile healthy for a lifetime. Don’t wait– make an appointment with your local Aspen Dental care team today.