Dental decay happens when the enamel and dentine of a tooth become softened by acid attacks caused by bacteria that live in our mouths. The bacteria eat sugar in our foods and drinks and produce acid. Over time, the acid makes a cavity (hole) in the tooth. ‘Dental decay’ is the same as tooth decay and is also known as ‘dental caries’. Decay damages your teeth and may lead to the tooth needing to be filled or even taken out.
If the decay is not too serious, the dentist will remove all the decay and repair the tooth with a filling. Sometimes the nerve in the middle of the tooth can be damaged. If so, the dentist will need to carry out root canal treatment by removing the nerve and then repairing the tooth with a filling or a crown. If the tooth is so badly decayed that it cannot be repaired, the dentist may have to take the tooth out.
In the very early stages of decay, your dental team may apply a fluoride varnish onto the area. This can help stop more decay and help ‘remineralise’ the tooth. However, it is important to follow the cleaning routine your dental team suggest, using a fluoride toothpaste to prevent decay starting again.