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Rotten Teeth: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Mar 5, 2024Family dental care, oral surgery

Experiencing Rotten Teeth?

Experiencing severe pain from a decaying tooth can be distressing, especially when the visible signs of your deteriorating dental health. Fortunately, there are many solutions available to address the problem of decayed teeth. If you are experiencing tooth decay, it is recommended to promptly schedule an examination and treatment with your dentist. While you wait, you can learn important information about the causes, symptoms, treatments, and preventative measures for dental decay.


What Causes Rotten Teeth?

The term “rotten” is used as an alternative to describe teeth that are severely decayed. The presence of dental decay is often associated with the consumption of foods high in sugar or starch and not practicing proper oral hygiene. Failing to regularly clean your teeth can result in the development of bacteria that forms a layer of plaque on your teeth and gums. The bacteria feed on sugars and starches in the food you eat, which leads to the production of acids that overtime can damage your tooth enamel. As the enamel weakens, bacteria and plaque continue to attack the less hard dentin underneath, eventually reaching the core or pulp of the tooth. During the final stage of tooth decay, an infection occurs in the pulp, leading to pain and a possible spread to other areas of the body.

There are multiple factors that can contribute to the development of rotten teeth, rather than a single underlying cause. Gaining knowledge about the factors contributing to tooth decay can help prevent future dental problems.

Poor dental hygiene

Maintaining dental health is important for having strong and healthy teeth. Consistently brushing and flossing is essential for effectively removing plaque and maintaining optimal dental health. It is recommended to brush your teeth twice daily and to remember to floss every day. It is recommended to receive dental cleanings from a professional dentist twice a year.

Poor diet

Tooth decay may result from consuming meals that are high in sugar and carbohydrates, as they have a tendency to stick to the teeth.

The presence of bacteria in your mouth is influenced by the amount of sugar you consume, leading to a higher level of acidity. Failure to regularly brush your teeth and consuming excessive amounts of sugary foods can accelerate the erosion of tooth enamel, which is the protective outer layer of your teeth. Furthermore, tooth decay can also be caused by a high consumption of acidic beverages such as soda and juices, as well as the presence of acid reflux disease. Beverages with an acidic nature can lead to a gradual erosion of tooth enamel. Additionally, the presence of acid reflux can result in the reversal of stomach acid, causing erosion of tooth enamel and affecting the esophagus and mouth.

Dry mouth

Insufficient saliva production by the salivary glands can result in a build-up of plaque and bacteria in the mouth, increasing the risk of tooth decay or deterioration caused by high levels of plaque and acid.

Dental crevices

Deep dental crevices can increase the risk of tooth decay due to difficulties in brushing effectively. Plaque can cause erosion on the tooth’s surface when it gets into the grooves. One way to prevent plaque buildup is by applying dental sealants to promote the overall oral health of the teeth.

Fluoride deficiency

Tooth decay may occur when fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral that strengthens tooth enamel, is not included in oral care. While fluoride is commonly added to public water sources, bottled water is less likely to contain it. Therefore, individuals who do not use fluoride toothpaste or consume municipal tap water may be at risk of developing tooth decay.

Baby bottle

Tooth decay can occur if a child falls asleep with a bottle containing milk, juice, or formula, or if their pacifier is coated with sugar or honey. In both situations, sugar accumulates around the teeth, creating a pathway for the development of tooth decay.


Symptoms of rotten teeth

Tooth decay, also known as dental caries, causes damage to the enamel of the tooth. Regular dental appointments are important because cavities can be present without any signs. Regular dental check-ups allow dentists to identify and treat cavities promptly, which helps prevent further tooth decay.

As a cavity progresses, it gradually enlarges and begins to affect the internal layers of the tooth. In addition to the presence of a cavity, signs of a decayed tooth include:

  • toothache
  • sensitivity to hot or cold
  • spots on the tooth that can be brown, black, or white in color
  • bad breath
  • unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • swelling

Tooth decay can impact individuals of all ages, including infants, toddlers, and children. The symptoms of tooth decay in children are similar to those in adults and may include inflamed gums, restlessness, and a raised body temperature indicating the presence of an infection.

If your child shows signs of irritability and has difficulty communicating where they are feeling pain or discomfort, it is recommended to check their mouth for any signs of possible problems.


Treatment for rotten teeth

Both children and adults receive similar treatment to address decayed teeth, with the goal of preserving the tooth being the main priority.

Treatment for early stages of rotten teeth

In the early stages of tooth decay, dentists may choose to administer a fluoride treatment to strengthen and rejuvenate the tooth, potentially reversing the cavity. However, it is important to mention that this approach only works for small cavities and may not be effective if there are other signs of decay, such as tooth discoloration or bad breath.

Treatment for advanced stages of rotten teeth

If fluoride treatment is not feasible, the dentist has the option to address tooth decay through dental fillings or dental crowns. The decayed parts of the tooth are extracted and replaced with either a tooth-colored composite resin or an amalgam filling that contains materials such as mercury, silver, or other metals. Another option is to place a dental cap over the decayed tooth in order to restore its functionality.

Treatment for very advanced stages of rotten teeth

In cases where tooth decay has reached the innermost part of the tooth, resulting in inflammation or infection, a root canal procedure may be required. During this procedure, the dentist removes the infected nerve and pulp, and then fills and seals the empty space.

In certain cases, when a tooth is severely damaged due to decay, a dentist may opt for its extraction and replacement with a denture, bridge, or implant.

In the event that your child possesses a decayed baby tooth that cannot be treated with a dental filling, you may think a root canal unnecessary since it is not their permanent tooth. However, despite the fact that a decayed tooth will eventually fall out naturally, the dentist attending to your child may advise a root canal procedure to avert the premature loss of the tooth. Premature tooth loss due to decay can potentially cause misalignment of permanent teeth.

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