Rotten teeth – Signs & Symptoms, Cause, Treatment Modalities & Prevention

Rotten teeth are a painful condition in which the tooth is destructed by acid producing bacteria, and if not treated in time it causes infection between teeth and gums. The teeth infection can, later on, infects nerves surrounding it leading to critical consequences. Rotten teeth have multiple etiological factors like bacteria, susceptible tooth surfaces (1), and diet playing a significant role.

Rotten teeth are present in a wide range of clinical features, affecting people of all age groups and all surfaces of teeth.  The current trend in treating rotten teeth is more towards prevention and minimal intervention rather than the traditional “drill and fill” (2) depending on the extent to which a tooth is rotten.


Signs and symptoms of rotten teeth are a toothache, dental caries, halitosis or bad breath, etc. Moving further in this article, you will see rotten teeth signs and symptoms, causes, treatment modalities in detail.

What are rotten teeth?

It is a breakdown of teeth due to poor oral hygiene or intake of excessive sugary diet because of which oral bacteria act on sugars to release acids that demineralize the inorganic portion of enamel.

This results in the development of dental caries and later on leading to the formation of cavities infecting the pulp.

Rotten teeth are a most common chronic disease of modern times faced by more than half of the total human population.  The condition creates a toothache and makes you rush to a dentist. If the condition gets worse, then you might even lose a tooth from 32 of your precious gems.

But do not worry, with the growing age of techniques and technologies in dentistry, there are many other treatments plans available for rotten teeth. Yet, prevention is better than cure.

Signs and symptoms

If your teeth are rotting then you will experience following conditions. Usually, it starts with a toothache. Watch out visual dark spots on the surface of teeth which are nothing but dental caries or cavities.

Rotten teeth infographic

Causes of rotten teeth

A rotten tooth is a multifactorial disease, here are some of the leading factors –

1) Poor oral hygiene practices

Many people complain that even after oral brushing, flossing their teeth is rotten to which I would say brushing is not enough unless you do it correctly.

2) Acidic and sugary diet

The modern diet is a significant factor in rotting teeth as compared to primitive diets due to detrimental changes in the modern diet like-

  • Diet is less fibrous, more refined, soft and sticky. This favors the stagnation of food on tooth surfaces.
  • These diets contain more refined carbohydrates like sucrose, fructose, glucose, etc. which makes the food more carcinogenic.
  • It was previously mentioned that acid-producing bacteria play a significant role in rotting teeth but bacteria are not the sole producer of acids. Shockingly, even food such as fish, bread, and citrus fruits contain acid and they coat the teeth in acid and damage tooth enamel in no time.

Therefore, avoid eating cooked starches, candies, chocolates and any unhealthy packed food items. Also, don’t forget to take proper care of your teeth such as brushing after every meal and follow regular oral hygiene practices.

3) Deep tooth crevices

Deep crevices in teeth are highly prone to rot because these deep crevices allow easy access for bacteria and plaque to grow. Dental sealants are typically used to prevent rotting of teeth, and it is safe only for uninfected teeth.

4) Dry mouth

Saliva helps in prevention of tooth decay by neutralizing acids produce by bacteria, limiting bacterial growth and cleaning away food particles.

Dry mouth is caused by several factors like dehydration and improper functioning of salivary glands. Consult a doctor at its earliest.

5) Fluoride deficiency

Fluoride is a natural mineral that strengthens tooth enamel; therefore, use of fluoride-containing toothpaste can prevent rotten tooth to some extent.

Fluoride prevents early decay and makes the tooth acid resistant. It also reduces the amount of acid produced by bacteria.

parts of a human tooth

Treatment of rotten teeth

The procedure can be done after studying the tooth condition physically and pathologically.

1) Fluoride

When you see or feel a thin slimy film on your tooth surface, brush using fluoride-containing toothpaste or apply fluorides varnish to the teeth. Areas provided with fluoridation water have fewer cases of rotten teeth as compared to fluoride-deficient water.

Therefore, fluoride plays a significant role in preventing and limiting the spread of enamel destruction and making teeth more resistant to acids that can cause damage to the teeth.

2) Drill and fill

In case of worn out enamel, you need to visit a dentist. The dentist first removes the decayed material, cleans the affected area, and then fills the cavity with filling material. This is done so that bacteria should not enter anymore and helps in preventing further damage.

There are different types of tooth filling material used according to the requirement of teeth repair. Below are the dental fillings which your dentist might use –

Composite or plastic resins

It is used in case of small cavities as they may chip or wear over time.  It matches the color of your teeth and appear natural but can also be stained by excessive consumption of caffeinated drinks or tobacco etc. it generally lasts for three to ten years.

Dental Amalgam or silver filling

It is used for posterior teeth due to its dark color. Dental amalgam is resistant to wear, and it is relatively inexpensive.

Porcelain filling

They match the color of the tooth and resist staining. It can be used in both small and large cavities. It is as expensive as in gold filling.

Gold filling

Gold inlays are well tolerated by gum tissues and may last for the lifetime if followed the guidelines. Tooth appears golden.

3) Root canal treatment or endodontic treatment

It is a treatment of a tooth, performed by completely removing the pulp, disinfecting the pulp chamber and root canal, and filling these spaces with an inert sealing material. It consists of 3 steps

  • Cleaning and shaping of the root canal system.
  • Disinfecting of root canal system
  • Obturation, filling and sealing of a cleaned and shaped root canal using root canal sealer and core filling material.


It is the last option, done when the tooth is very severely damaged and cannot be restored further. But to fill the gaps and other problem, there are few alternatives like uses of following procedure

  • Partial dentures – It is removable false teeth made of acrylic, nylon or metal. They fit snugly over the gums to replace missing teeth.
  • Bridge – They are used as primary support for a dental prosthesis. These are fixed denture forming a bridge between two teeth.
  • Implants – These are smooth and threaded pin implant that extends through root canal of a tooth and is used to stabilize a loose tooth.

Uses of crowns and caps

These are tooth-shaped cap known as a crown, placed on the restored tooth to avoid any damage to the restored material.

How to prevent rotting of teeth

People usually don’t see a dentist unless in pain, therefore, keeping one self-aware is the most preventive majors. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Here are some tips to prevent rotten teeth –

1) Proper oral hygiene

You can easily maintain a proper dental hygiene by following regular brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and rinsing of mouth after every meal or food intake. Fluorination water and toothpaste are advisable.

The proper brushing technique

  • Your toothbrush should be placed 45-degree angle to the gums
  • Gently move the brush back and forth in short strokes
  • Brush the outer, inner and the chewing surfaces of teeth
  • The toothbrush should be replaced after every three or four months otherwise bristles are worn, and brushing won’t be of many effects.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day for 2min2* according to American dental association

2) Avoid sugary candies, chocolates, and refined carbohydrates

As said earlier, food and drinks with a high content of sugars promote dental plaque as bacteria are attracted to sugars.

Avoid carbonated soft drinks as they are very high in sugar. Fruit juices also do not fall in the exception as they often contain hidden added sugar, feeding the bacteria to produce acid destructing the enamel.

Therefore, next time, keep these minute details in mind to prevent your teeth from rotting. Even if you eat sugary items, make sure to brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste afterward.

3) Fiber-rich diet

One should eat plenty of fiber-rich foods like carrot, peas, broccoli, lentil, beans, apple, banana, orange, and berries, etc. These fiber-rich food items will stimulate saliva flow. Saliva is a natural defense against cavities since it prevents bacteria and plaque from sticking to your teeth.

Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt contain several minerals like calcium, phosphate, and vitamin D which are very helpful in keeping the teeth healthy.


4) Visit your dentist twice a year for calculus removal or regular cleaning of teeth

If you are more prone to dental disease or problem, you might need to visit a dentist every three or four months. In case of deep crevices, one can use sealants.

These are plastic preventive sealant coverings for your teeth. They seal off the crevices on teeth where food normally gets stuck.


A rotten tooth is a commonly encountered clinical problem faced by everyone from children to adult. Maintaining proper oral health care is something which we can do without visiting dentist. The leading cause of rotten teeth is lack of knowledge or negligence about dental hygiene.

Having said that, one might still suffer from rotten teeth. As soon as you see the signs and symptoms of rotten teeth, visit a dentist without wasting time since untreated rotten teeth can infect the gums and lead to dental cancer.


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