Tooth decay and common dental problems to look out for

tooth decay

Tooth decay happens when plaque settles on teeth when we consume sugary, starchy food. Oral bacteria feed on this and produce acids as a metabolic by-product which breaks down the outer mineral layer of our teeth, the enamel, creating cavities on the surfaces of the teeth.

Tooth decay can appear in both children and adults. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 60-90% of children and almost 100% of adults worldwide have cavities.

So, what are the signs and symptoms of tooth decay?

  • Food getting trapped after eating
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Sharp pain when drinking or eating something cold/hot/sweet
  • Toothache, spontaneous pain or pain that occurs without any apparent cause
  • Newly appeared tooth stains or visible holes on the surface of your teeth
  • Pain when biting

Suppose you experience any of the symptoms above. In that case, it is best to visit your dentist for further investigation and treatment to prevent the cavities from getting bigger. Treatment ranges from a simple filling (if the cavity is small) to root canal treatment (if the cavity is deep) and sometimes extraction if the tooth is decayed beyond repair.

Prevention, without a doubt, is the best treatment for tooth decay. You can do so with the following:

  • Practice good oral hygiene, brushing your teeth for two minutes at least twice a day
  • Avoid food with high sugar or starch content
  • Visit your dentist regularly to spot cavities early!

Common Dental Problems to Look out for

Gum Disease

Known as gingivitis in the early stages (reversible gum inflammation) and periodontal disease in later stages (irreversible bone loss), gum disease is mostly caused by inadequate oral hygiene. It is one of the most common dental diseases adults can get. 

If left untreated, tooth loss may occur.

Studies have shown that smoking, diabetes and cardiovascular disease can increase your risk of developing gum disease. And vice versa – if your gum disease is uncontrolled, it may increase your risk/severity of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Signs and symptoms of gum disease:

  • Bleeding gums 
  • Bad breath
  • Swollen, red or tender gum
  • Loose teeth
  • You can prevent gum disease by practising good oral hygiene. Brushing at least twice a day with interdental cleaning, visiting your dentist regularly for checkups and general cleaning, and quitting smoking. 

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, which leads to cavities, happens when the plaque on your teeth interact with sugary, sticky foods you consume. This decay, in turn, creates acids that attack and breakdown the surfaces of your teeth. The best way to prevent tooth decay is to maintain good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly for checkups.

Treatment can involve fillings, root canals, crowns or extractions depending on the size of the cavity.

Cracked or Chipped Tooth, Teeth Grinding

Most common symptoms of this condition are sharp edges and pain upon biting on a specific part of a tooth. This condition is usually caused by trauma (use a crab cracker, not your teeth please!), cavities either due to tooth decay or lost fillings, and teeth grinding. If left untreated, the crack can propagate and cause much pain. Treatment options may be fillings, crowns or the provision of a nightguard.

Tooth Infection

If the tooth decay or a crack progresses, it can damage the nerves and pulpal tissues inside the tooth and infect the root of a tooth. This damage can lead to painful abscesses and swellings if it’s left untreated.

The solution to a root infection is root canal treatment or extraction depending on the severity of the issue.


Tooth sensitivity usually presents as sharp pain or discomfort when your teeth are exposed to hot or cold food/drinks. Sometimes even brushing can cause discomfort. Common causes are dental erosion, gum recession, grinding and vigorous brushing. It could also be a sign of tooth decay, cracked teeth, or even dental abscess. As the cause is so diverse, it is best to get your dentist to check and advise on appropriate treatment.

Bad breath (Halitosis)

Common causes are diet, lifestyle (e.g. smoking), dry mouth, gum disease and cavities, to name a few. While using mouthwash and drinking water offer a temporary fix, treating the underlying issue may be the best remedy.

Uncommon but Important: Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is one of the most serious dental problems that you can develop and the reason why regular dental checkups are so important. Oral cancer starts with a small, pale pinkish growth in the mouth. Since our mouths have different surface textures and are naturally pink in colour, it often goes unnoticed.

The biggest risk factor for oral cancer is smoking and the excessive consumption of alcohol.

If you feel you’re suffering from tooth decay, act on it immediately to avoid further damage to your teeth. We are here for you. Don’t hesitate to consult our dentists to resolve any of your dental concerns.