Tooth decay: Types, Complications & Prevention

tooth decay
Tooth decay is the destruction of the hard tissue of the tooth. It is among the world's most common health problems.
Untreated, decay evolves to reach the pulp resulting in intense pain. The entire crown can be destroyed making it impossible to restore the tooth.

Types of tooth decay:

Intedental decay:

interdental decay
Caries is localized in interdental spaces. The diagnosis is too difficult because decay is not visible, detectable only with some tools such as radiography.
The difficulty of analysis of the interdental spaces, as well as the deficiency of cleaning by the patient make the interdental spaces more susceptible to cavities.
That's why flossing is important to eliminate the plaque present in the interdental spaces and to prevent caries and periodontal problems.

Smooth surface decay:

These are initial lesions. Their evolution is slow if good hygiene is maintained. It usually develops on the smooth outer surfaces of the teeth.
It is the least severe form of caries, and it can be treated with fluoride.

Pit and fissure decay:

pit and fissure decay It develops in masticatory surfaces of molars. They're especially common in children and adolescents.
The children or teenagers enamel being immature is very sensitive to acid attacks, the evolution of caries towards the pulp is too fast.
Achieving pulp can lead to serious problems including dental abscess and periodontal disease.
It can be prevented by brushing your teeth carefully with the recommended techniques (Bass technique is the most recommended).

Root decay:

periapical abscess
It is most common in older adults. The regression of gum will expose the roots to the oral environment. Many factors may act:
  • Trauma: during brushing or due to shock, the roots are less resistant than dental enamel.
  • Acidity: The acidity causes the destruction of the mineral components of the tooth.


Tooth decay can reach very advanced stages leading to more serious complications:

Dental abscess

Dental abscess represents a periodontal emergency, untreated, the infection can be generalized leading to more serious complications.
Characterized by swelling of the gum, intense pain with difficulty during chewing.


At the more advanced stage, the swelling will be seen in external tissues (skin, muscles, cheek).
The pus makes its way through the tissues and pierces an exit orifice, which will end on the gum, sometimes on the face (cheek, chin).

Septicemia (general infection):

Bacteria that come from cavities can reach the general circulation through the dental pulp or by ingestion.
Once the general circulation is reached, the bacteria can attach to the heart, lungs, kidneys or any other organ.
People with pathologies related to these organs are therefore the most fragile.


The roots of the upper molars are located near the sinuses. If the tooth abscess generates pus, the sinuses can then be filled with this pus. These can cause pain in the cheekbones and when the head is thrown forward. In some cases, a purulent discharge may occur and a feeling of bad smell.

Bacterial endocarditis:

Bacteria from the dental abscess can reach the heart through the bloodstream. These pathogenic bacteria can infect the valves and lead to fatal consequences.

Abscess of the brain

The infection could spread from the teeth to the brain through the veins. Infection of the brain can lead to coma.
To stop the infection and avoid serious complications, consult the doctor at the first symptoms. Go to the emergency if the fever exceeds 38 °C or if it becomes difficult to swallow and feed.


To prevent the appearance of caries, there are different ways that you can adopt at home:
  • Brushing your teeth is an important part of your dental care routine.
    Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush. The size and shape of your brush should fit your mouth allowing you to reach all areas easily.
    Adopt the Bass technique, it is the most recommended
  • Use mouthwashes, they are complementary to dental brushing. Highly recommended to people with initial caries.
  • Balance your diet
  • Avoid foods that stick to your teeth.
  • No more than 5 meals a day.
  • Prefer water to any other drink and use straw for sugary drinks.
  • Consume foods rich in fluorine such as fish, tea, fluoridated water salt and milk.
  • Visit your dentist for professional cleanings and oral exam.