Early warning signs of tooth decay and what can you do to prevent it

by | Apr 23, 2023


Tooth decay is a result of the build-up of acid caused by the sticky dental plaque that coats the teeth. It can also happen when your teeth are repeatedly exposed to acid, such as when you consume foods and drinks high in sugar and starches. This wears down the enamel, causes it to lose minerals and damages the surface of your teeth over time. When tooth decay is left untreated, it leads to other oral health issues such as tooth extraction, gum disease and dental abscesses, to name a few.

Find out how to spot the signs of early tooth decay and what action you can take to prevent it from getting worse.

Warning signs of tooth decay 

There are a few signs that will give you an indication that you may be having early tooth decay, such as white spots that are an indication that your tooth or teeth have suffered a mineral loss. Some other signs include:

  • Tooth sensitivity – this usually happens when your tooth enamel is worn, or you have exposed tooth nerves or roots resulting from decay, a cavity, a chip or a crack. You will especially feel discomfort when exposed to diverse temperatures and when eating or drinking hot or cold food and drinks.
  • Discolouration – tooth decay causes discolouration because it causes cavities which destroy the enamel, exposing the tooth’s inner dentin, which has a naturally darker hue to the outer surface of your teeth. When plaque builds up, it too destroys the enamel causing the tooth to turn brown.
  • Bad breath – decay causes the breakdown of your tooth enamel and dentine, which cause a sulphurous or bad smell because as the bacteria builds up, it releases a gas into your mouth, creating an unpleasant odour.
  • Pain – Due to your tooth enamel being destroyed, it causes your tooth nerves or roots to be exposed, which results in either a continuous pain or occasional sharp severe pain.

Preventing tooth decay 

Preventing tooth decay it’s not difficult if you take a few effective steps to keep your oral and dental health in the best possible condition. While illness or medication can contribute to tooth decay, there are positive measures you can adopt to keep things in check.

Practising good oral hygiene – You must have a daily oral hygiene routine that includes brushing your teeth a minimum of twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Floss regularly and use a recommended mouthwash as advised.

Also, drink plenty of tap water because it keeps your mouth hydrated and washes out remaining food particles. If you live in a region where small amounts of fluoride are added to the water, you gain that benefit as well.

Not missing out on dental appointments – Visiting the dental hygienist or dentist regularly is a great way to spot early signs of tooth decay and take preventive measures such as fillings and necessary remedial action. As soon as you feel discomfort or suspect that you could be having early tooth decay visit the dentist immediately because early action can make all the difference to your oral health. Make regular dental visits a part of your lifestyle.

Fluoride toothpaste – Dental fluoride is an effective way of making your tooth enamel more resistant to acid and thereby helps prevent tooth decay. It can also help reverse early tooth decay.

Changes to diet – This is very important for oral and dental health because the food and drink we consume have an impact on our teeth. Sugary drinks and sugary foods are bad for our tooth enamel, causing sticky build-up. Instead, start eating food that actually helps look after your teeth, such as:

  • Crunchy vegetables and fruits like apples, carrots, celery
  • Cheese and dairy for a boost of protein and calcium, while cheese also promotes saliva, which is important for dental health. Drinking milk after eating something very sweet can help reduce the amount of plaque build-up.
  • Nuts because they are also a good source of protein, calcium and phosphorous which is great for tooth enamel. Also, because nuts are crunchy, they stimulate saliva production, which prevents dry mouth, a cause for tooth decay.
  • Seafood like fish and shellfish are a good source of lean protein, and the natural sodium fluoride in the ocean means that most seafood contains fluoride.


Spotting early warning signs of tooth decay and taking remedial and preventive action is very important. Neglecting early signs can not only lead to an infection in the tooth and destroy the tooth pulp resulting in tooth loss, but it can lead to other oral health issues, such as gum disease. Bad oral health, in turn, has a negative impact on your overall health and can cause complications. Take action today towards strengthening your dental and oral health to prevent the risk of tooth decay.