Tooth decay, sometimes also known as cavity or caries, is one of the most common conditions to affect both adults and children in the UK. Some people are at higher risk of developing decay than others and it’s commonly caused by plaque. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth.
What are the causes of tooth decay?
The bacteria in plaque react with sugar in the foods and drinks we consume to produce acids. Over time, the acid in plaque can begin to breakdown the hard outer-surface of the tooth (the enamel) to form a cavity. At this stage, you may not have any symptoms at all. If left untreated, the cavity can progress to the deeper, softer layer of the tooth (dentine). At this stage, you may experience sensitivity to hot and cold when eating and drinking. Finally, decay can then expose the nerves (the pulp) inside a tooth. Exposure of the pulp to bacteria may cause a dental abscess, which can be very painful.
Where does decay form?
Tooth decay can occur:
- On the biting surfaces of teeth
- Between teeth
- On root surfaces
- Around existing fillings and crowns (recurrent decay)
- Especially on back teeth that are harder to keep clean
What happens when tooth decay isn’t effectively treated?
Once the decay has advanced, it sometimes requires a filling to treat the cavity and ensure that the tooth is not further damaged. However, if the decay has advanced beyond the point that this is possible, it can mean that teeth might need root canal treatment, crowns to be fitted, or even for teeth to be extracted altogether.
Why might you make a compensation claim for tooth decay?
If you have tooth decay that has not been correctly diagnosed or effectively treated by your dentist, despite regular visits, the problem can progress to a stage where you need to have restorative dental treatment, or you may even have teeth that cannot be saved and require extraction. If your dentist has been negligent in your care, and this results in pain, suffering or financial loss, you may be eligible to make a claim for compensation.