Tooth decay is a disease of the tooth in which the enamel and then the dentin have been altered, leading to the formation of cavities in the tooth and its gradual destruction. The third most common disease in the world, it is very common in men and women of all ages, and equally affects the canines, incisors and molars. A cavity develops when bacteria in plaque convert food waste into acidic substances that attack the tooth's enamel. The two main factors at the origin of these cavities are sugar and poor oral hygiene.
The symptoms will vary according to the degree of development of cavities. The pain is mild at first, as the decay remains at the surface of the tooth enamel. It is when the dentin (the pulp inside the tooth) is attacked that a very sharp pain appears, which can lead to a toothache. Pain is also felt with temperature changes, and a stain can often be seen on the tooth.
A dentist will diagnose tooth decay, and he will use an X-ray to more accurately detect early signs of decay. A medical examination must be performed at the first sign of pain, so as to facilitate the treatment of the decay.
It depends on the progress of the decay. If it is spotted early, cleaning out the cavity with a dental drill followed by the sealing of the tooth with a filling - most frequently today with amalgam - will be enough. However, if the decay is too deep and reaches the pulp, it will require a root canal of the tooth performed under local anesthesia, i.e. removing the infected tooth pulp and filling it with a mixture. If the abscess or infection is too extensive, a tooth extraction may be necessary.
One must of course adopt a proper routine of oral hygiene. This involves brushing your teeth daily to remove plaque, ideally after each meal. It also means avoiding too many sweets, especially between meals. Finally, an annual visit to the dentist is highly recommended.