How Is Tooth Decay Diagnosed?

Tooth decay is the leading cause of cavities in teeth. It’s not uncommon to have tooth decay and it can affect people of all ages from small children to adults. When tooth decay is left unchecked, the result is often structural damage to the tooth in the form of a cavity or another similar loss of tooth density. If decay is detected, a dentist needs to clean out the affected area and repair the damage with a filling or take a different restorative measure.

Diagnosing the problem is usually initiated by a patient since tooth decay often results in symptoms of pain or discomfort in the mouth or around a specific tooth. When this occurs, it’s time to make an appointment to see your local Birmingham dentist who has a set of prescribed methods for finding the source of the discomfort and taking steps toward treatment.

Anatomy of the Tooth

Every tooth consists of three layers. Decay can affect all of them and cause serious, lasting damage that can either be repaired or result in total loss of the tooth. The top layer is the enamel, which is the hard outer shell that protects each tooth. Beneath that is the dentin, a calcified tissue that provides strength to the tooth and forms the layer around the pulp, located at the center of the tooth. This area is where the blood and the nerves are located.  When a cavity is formed, these nerves can become exposed resulting in serious pain and discomfort.

Causes of Decay

There are many causes that can contribute to tooth decay. Bacteria in your mouth converts food particles like sugars and starch into acids. These acids then combine with other food pieces and saliva to form plaque. That plaque is gathered near the gum line, around the back molars, and along the edges of fillings in your teeth. These acids can also damage the enamel of your teeth, making them more susceptible to decay.

The more decay that grows, the worse a cavity can get. Tiny cavities on their own don’t usually cause pain or discomfort.  However, complications can arise if cavities are left untreated and allowed to grow deeper and wider. The tooth can also become infected and, if the pulp inside is too heavily damaged, the tooth may need to be extracted.

In order to prevent decay, it’s important to brush all of that harmful plaque, bacteria, and acids from your teeth. Practicing good dental hygiene is your best defense against tooth decay and cavities. Other causes include having a shortage of saliva, smoking, or using smokeless tobacco. Diabetes sufferers have also reported an increase in cavities.

Decay Symptoms

A tooth that is left to decay for long periods of time may show signs of significant damage as holes are rived into the surface. Bad breath is also a symptom of excessive tooth decay, even if it’s just one tooth all the way in the back of the mouth. In advanced cases, pain or discomfort can be felt when hot or cold temperatures come into contact with the affected tooth, while extreme cases can trigger sharp pain from chewing or merely moving the jaw.

Diagnosing Tooth Decay

You may look into your mouth every morning or night when you brush your teeth, but may not be able to detect tooth decay on your own. This is why it’s crucial to schedule regular dental check-ups with dentists in Birmingham, AL to detect problem areas inside the mouth and administer the proper measures for prevention and repair any damage. A diagnosis begins with a visual inspection of the teeth, using a mirror and a sharp tool called an explorer. He or she will tap the tooth lightly, checking for any soft spots where the tool may penetrate the surface.

A tactile examination is also performed to identify any portions of the teeth that are sticky. In addition to these methods, X-rays are typically taken of the mouth to locate any cavities that aren’t detectable to the naked eye or through probing with the explorer. The results of these tests will determine which teeth, if any, have a cavity. They can also spot the initial signs of a cavity that might cause problems in the future. Your dentist will then decide which areas need repair, usually by way of a filling or a sealant to keep food particles and other harmful elements away from the top layer of the tooth.

If you are feeling any symptoms, don’t delay. Make an appointment with a dentist in Birmingham, AL today.