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what tooth decay looks like sydney

What Does Tooth Decay Look Like? Understanding the Treatment Options

If you are experiencing oral discomfort and suspect a cavity, you may ask yourself, what does tooth decay look like? While only a qualified dentist can accurately determine if a cavity causes your discomfort, there are some signs your teeth are decaying.

Tooth decay is damage caused by plaque, a colourless film consisting of bacteria, food, and saliva. If not removed quickly, plaque hardens into tartar, trapping bacteria that feed off the sugars in your food and produce acid byproducts, resulting in tooth decay. Understand what dental treatments can help such as dental crowns, root canal, dental fillings, etc.


What Does Tooth Decay Look Like: 5 Stages of Tooth Decay and Their Treatment

What tooth decay looks like varies based on the stage of tooth decay. Treatment ranges from simple fluoride treatments to dental crowns to tooth removal.

  • Initial Demineralisation

prevention what tooth decay looks like sydneyTeeth are coated with enamel, a hard mineral-based tissue.

Plaque and acid demineralise enamel, resulting in white spots.

At this stage, fluoride treatments at the dentist’s or fluoride-based toothpaste, mouthwash, and tap water can prevent further decay.

  • Enamel Decay

Enamel decay is caused when the enamel is demineralised to the point that cavities form on the tooth’s surface. 

Dentists will use a tool to clean the cavity, then fill the hole with composite resin, ceramic, or amalgam to seal it and prevent further decay.

  • Dentin Decay

Dentin is the tissue layer directly underneath the enamel. Dentin includes tubes connected directly to the root, causing sensitivity when it is damaged.

In minor cases, dentin decay can be treated with fillings, but more severe cases may require dental crowns. Your dentist will remove the decayed area and some healthy tissue before covering the tooth above the gum line with a tooth crown to seal it.

  • Pulp Damage

Under the dentin layer is the pulp, which contains the nerves and blood vessels that supply nutrients and sensation to your teeth. Symptoms of pulp damage include swelling, extreme discomfort, sensitivity, and fever.

Treating pulp damage requires a root canal, which involves opening the tooth crown, removing the infected pulp, cleaning the pulp chamber, then filling it with gutta-percha. Finally, the dentist seals the tooth with a filling or a dental crown.

  • Abscess

Abscesses are the most severe form of decay. In an abscess, bacteria penetrate the pulp and cause an infection, creating a pocket of pus at the bottom of the tooth. Abscesses cause intense discomfort in the jaw, swelling of the gums, face and jawline, fever, and swollen lymph nodes in your neck. If left untreated, the infection can spread to your jawbone.

In minor abscess cases, the tooth can be treated with a root canal and capped with a tooth crown, but the tooth often needs to be removed.


Crown Procedure for Restoring Teeth Affected By Decay

While fillings are often used to restore teeth with minor caries, for severe tooth decay, you may need dental crowns. Tooth crowns support the remaining structure and protect the interior from further damage. Dental crowns are a tooth-coloured cap that covers the entire tooth. Tooth crowns are typically made of ceramic or porcelain. 

At No Gaps Dental, we offer Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics (CEREC) dental crowns that are fabricated onsite, allowing you to repair and protect your damaged tooth in a single visit to our practice. 

Your tooth requires preparation before the crown can be fitted. The dentist will apply a local anaesthetic to numb the area, then use a high-speed handpiece to access the decayed tissue. They then remove the decay using a low-speed bur. 

After removing the decay, they may need to build up the tooth’s structure with composite filling material before shaping it to accommodate the tooth crown. Your dentist then uses digital scanning technology to take images of your teeth. 

This data is input into the CEREC software program that develops a 3D model of your dental crowns. This model is used to craft your dental crowns from the onsite milling machine from a single block of ceramic. 

Once the tooth crown is ready, it is placed over the tooth, and your dentist will check your bite before cementing it in place. 


Prevention of Cavities

To avoid restorative procedures like fillings and tooth crowns, it is critical to prevent tooth decay.

  • Drink Enough Water

Drinking water improves saliva production and prevents dry mouth, which can significantly increase your risk of developing cavities. More than 89% of Australians have access to tap water that includes fluoride. Fluoride helps to remineralise enamel affected by acid wear. 

Health professionals recommend drinking at least eight glasses of water per day and more if the weather is warm or you are highly active. 

  • Eat a Balanced Diet

If you want to avoid tooth decay, limit your sugar intake, especially between meals. Eat foods rich in calcium and minerals, like cheeses and fruits and vegetables, to make tooth enamel stronger. 

  • Brush and Floss Twice Daily

A proper oral hygiene routine is crucial for preventing tooth decay. Brushing morning and evening removes food particles, bacteria, and plaque, and flossing helps eliminate harmful substances between your teeth. 

treatments what tooth decay looks like sydneyUse a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, and avoid brushing too vigorously because you may damage your enamel.

It is vital to use the correct technique when brushing.

Use small circular motions and angle your brush 45° away from the gum line to effectively remove plaque.

You should also use a non-alcoholic antibacterial mouthwash once per day. 

  • Visit Your Dentist

Visiting your dentist every six months lets them check your teeth for early signs of decay and identify any risk factors such as bruxism, excessive enamel erosion, or chips. Your dentist will professionally clean your teeth to remove tartar and manually examine your teeth and gums at your biannual visits. 

If your dentist suspects a tooth is decayed, you may need X-rays to detect any internal damage. 


Contact Your No Gaps Dental Dentist

If you are wondering what tooth decay looks like and how to treat it, contact No Gaps Dental today for an appointment. Our dentists can conduct a thorough cleaning to determine your overall oral health and an evaluation to determine if you have tooth decay and if it requires a filling or dental crowns, and if necessary, digitally design and fit a tooth crown during your visit.


Schedule an appointment online or call us at (02) 8806 0227.



Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks.

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