When a tooth has started to decay the hole will usually get bigger until it is cleaned out and filled. A decayed tooth is not always painful but if left untreated it can start to hurt, an abscess can form, or the whole tooth can rot and break and may need to be removed.

The dentist will remove the decay from the tooth and replace it with a filling. There are different filling materials and options for repairing a tooth, your dentist will be happy to discuss these with you and advise what is the best for your tooth.

If the decay is close to, or into the nerve inside the tooth, you may need a root canal treatment.

Why has my tooth decayed?

We all have bacteria living in our mouths and on our teeth. These bacteria eat sugars, multiply, and produce acid that eats away at the teeth - the tooth will start to rot (decay) and a hole (cavity) can form.

The bacteria eat when and what you eat so if you eat a lot of sugary foods and often, the bacteria will constantly be producing acid so you will be more likely to develop cavities and need fillings. You can reduce the amount of acid produced in your mouth and the damage it does to your teeth by:

  • Reducing how often and how much sugary foods you eat.
  • Brushing, flossing and cleaning your teeth regularly. This removes the bacteria, and if you have less bacteria on your teeth, they do less harm.
  • Using toothpastes and mouthwashes with fluoride. Fluoride helps strengthening the teeth and replenishes some of the minerals in the teeth lost when acid has dissolved them.

Tooth decay and fillings