By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Tooth decay can lead to several complications. The bacteria present inside dental plaque can damage not only the teeth, but also the surrounding gums and the dental bones.
In severe cases, painful dental abscesses may develop in the teeth and gums.
Some of the complications of tooth decay include:
Damage to and even breakage of the tooth. Teeth may also loosen and fall out.
Gum disease or gingivitis, characterized by pain and inflammation of the gums, may develop. Gums then appear red and swollen and may bleed when handled or brushed.
A more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis may also eventually manifest. With this condition, the tissues connecting the tooth to the tooth socket (called the periodontal ligament) are affected as well as the jaw bone or alveolar bone where the tooth sockets are located.
In advanced cases of tooth decay, dental abscesses may occur, where the dental plaque forms pus-filled swellings. This can cause severe pain, fever and other symptoms of infection. Individuals with tooth decay may develop dental sepsis, where sinuses associated with an affected tooth may become infected and swollen.
The toothache associated with tooth decay may lead children or adults to take time off from school or work. In addition, the decay can inhibit functions such as eating and even interfere with growth and development. Since tooth decay is more common among children, its potential impact on a child's attendance at school and ability to function normally should be understood.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Sep 23, 2013