Select your location for up-to-date news and information in your local area My Area

Tooth decay: Just the facts

If you don’t look after your teeth, a film of bacteria called plaque can build up around them, causing teeth to decay.

Plaque causes tooth decay because it produces acid that builds on your teeth, this can lead to issues such as holes in the teeth (called dental caries) that may need to be filled in by a dentist.

You might not notice tooth decay until it causes problems like gum disease, dental abscesses, or dental caries. So it’s important to keep on top of your oral health at all times.

You can check out our top tips on looking after your teeth here.

If you experience any of the below symptoms, book in for a check up at your dentist. Visiting your dentist for regular check-ups will allow them to identify tooth decay in the early stages, making it easier to treat.

Symptoms of dental caries (holes in the teeth)

  • Toothache
  • Tooth sensitivity – this is when you feel tenderness or pain when eating or drinking something hot, cold or sweet
  • Grey, brown or black spots appearing on the teeth
  • Bad breath
  • An unpleasant taste in your mouth

Symptoms of gum disease

Also known as gingivitis, gum disease isn’t always painful but can cause:

  • Red and swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums after brushing or flossing

Symptoms of a dental abscess

This is a bacterial infection causing pus to form inside the teeth or gums, you may experience:

  • an intense throbbing pain in the affected tooth or gum that may come on suddenly and gets gradually worse
  • pain that spreads to your ear, jaw and neck on the same side as the affected tooth or gum
  • pain that’s worse when lying down, which may disturb your sleep
  • redness and swelling in your face
  • a tender, discoloured or loose tooth
  • shiny, red and swollen gums
  • sensitivity to hot or cold food and drink
  • bad breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth

An abscess will not go away on its own and can sometimes spread to other areas of the body, so speak to a dentist as soon as possible if you think you have one.


How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your school nurse.

Cross Hatch

Find help in your local area

Find help in your local area

Find out what services are available to you in your area. Remember your school nurse is always there to give you confidential help and support.

Find help in your local area