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What to know about rotten teeth

Updated: May 20

Rotten teeth are teeth that have become damaged by decay or infection. They usually occur due to inadequate oral hygiene.

People with rotten teeth may experience pain, sensitivity, and difficulty eating. As healthy teeth are critical for overall well-being, rotten teeth require urgent dental treatment. Treatment depends on the severity of the decay and ranges from fluoride toothpaste use to complete tooth extraction. This article looks at rotten teeth, their symptoms and treatment, and how a person can prevent these dental issues.

What are rotten teeth?

The term “rotten teeth” describes teeth with damaged surface enamel and underlying decay. This occurs when oral bacteria make acid that attacks the tooth enamel, which is the protective outer coating of the teeth. The decay leads to cavities or caries, which are permanent spots of tooth damage that cause tiny holes. At first, a person may notice brown or discolored spots on the teeth. As the decay worsens, holes develop. If a person does not seek treatment, this can lead to pain, infection, and even tooth loss.

Symptoms of rotten teeth

A person with rotten teeth may experience the following symptoms:

  • marks on the tooth enamel

  • holes on the surface of the tooth

  • pain when eating or drinking

  • tooth sensitivity

Causes of rotten teeth

A buildup of plaque, combined with insufficient oral hygiene and consuming excess sugar, contributes to rotten teeth. Plaque is a sticky film that covers the teeth. It consists of bacteria, saliva, and food particles. As the bacteria metabolize food and sugars, acid forms on the surface of the teeth. If a person does not clean their teeth properly, the acid erodes the tooth enamel, slowly damaging them and leading to rotten teeth. Some people may have a higher risk of tooth decay. For example, having a very dry mouth, taking certain medications, and having health conditions such as diabetes can increase a person’s risk. Having a disability or mobility issues that make it difficult to clean one’s teeth can also make a person more likely to develop tooth decay.

Rotten teeth in children

Children are particularly susceptible to rotten teeth and tooth decay because the enamel covering baby teeth is weaker and thinner than that of adult teeth. Therefore, they are easily damaged by sugary and acidic foods and drinks. Additionally, younger children may object to a caregiver cleaning their teeth, contributing to poor oral hygiene. When permanent teeth first erupt, they are also very sensitive. The enamel is not yet fully hardened, making them vulnerable to tooth decay. They can also cause sore gums, which can make children less likely to brush their teeth properly.

Treating rotten teeth

The treatment required depends on the stage of tooth decay. In the early stages, where discolored spots appear on the teeth, brushing regularly with fluoride toothpaste may be enough to eliminate the decay. A dentist usually recommends a filling if the individual has a hole or cavity in their tooth. This involves drilling a hole in the damaged area to remove any decayed tissue and refilling the cavity. A dentist may use a synthetic resin, ceramic, or metal material to fill the tooth. The dentist may recommend a crown in cases of more severe tooth damage. This artificial cap fits over the damaged part of the tooth once the dentist files it down. Should the decay or infection affect the nerves of the tooth, a root canal treatment may help. This procedure involves removing the damaged tissue from the root space and disinfecting and filling the area. If the dentist cannot save the tooth, they may recommend tooth extraction and replacement with a bridge, denture, or implant.

Preventing rotten teeth

The best way to prevent rotten teeth is to practice proper oral hygiene. This involves brushing the teeth, flossing, and getting regular dental checkups. Brushing helps strengthen tooth enamel, protecting the teeth against decay. Children should also use fluoride toothpaste as soon as their first baby teeth erupt. However, caregivers should take care not to use too much toothpaste, as excessive fluoride can have side effects. Brushing removes the plaque and harmful bacteria that produce damaging acid, and dentists recommend brushing teeth at least twice a day after meals. It is also important to use dental floss to remove food and plaque particles. People may consider moderating their sugar intake to reduce the risk of tooth decay. High sugar foods include candy, fruit juices, ketchup, and soda. Regular dental checkups also help protect teeth, as the dentist can identify and treat any tooth decay at an early stage. They can also apply a fluoride varnish to the teeth and seal any pits and grooves on the larger back teeth with a plastic dental sealant.

In summary

Rotten teeth are a serious dental concern that can lead to more significant health issues if left untreated. Most people can prevent rotten teeth by practicing good oral hygiene and seeking dental attention if they develop tooth decay. A dentist can restore tooth health with fillings, crowns, or root canal treatments. However, in severe cases, they may need to extract the tooth and replace it with a manufactured alternative. Decay and damage can cause rotten teeth, which can be sensitive and painful. Practicing good oral hygiene and regularly seeing the dentist are the best ways to prevent rotten teeth. People with certain health conditions, as well as children, may be more prone to tooth decay.

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