What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay occurs when germs (bacteria) in your mouth make acids that eat away at a tooth. It can lead to a hole in the tooth, called a cavity. If not treated, tooth decay can cause pain, infection, and possibly tooth loss.A tooth has three layers

  • The outer layer is called enamel
  • The middle layer is called dentin.
  • The center of the tooth is called the pulp. It contains nerves and blood vessels.
What causes tooth decay?Bacteria and food can cause tooth decay. A clear, sticky substance called plaque is always forming on your teeth and gums. Plaque contains bacteria that feed on the sugars in the food you eat.Over time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, which will cause tooth decay.Things that may cause tooth decay include:

  • Not brushing and flossing your teeth regularly and not seeing a dentist for checkups and cleanings.
  • Eating foods that are high in sugar and other carbohydrates, which feed the bacteria in your mouth.
  • Not getting enough fluoride. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making teeth more resistant to acids produced by plaque. Fluoride is added to many public water supplies.
  • Not having enough saliva. Saliva washes away food and harmful sugars, so it helps protect your teeth from decay.
  • Having diabetes.
  • Smoking, using spit (smokeless) tobacco, or breathing secondhand smoke.

Children, whose teeth are still growing, are more likely than adults to have tooth decay. This is because the minerals in new teeth are not very strong and are easier for acids to eat away.

Tooth decay usually doesn’t cause symptoms until you have a cavity or an infected tooth. When this happens, you may have:

  • A toothache, which is the most common symptom.
  • Swelling in your gums near a sore tooth. This can be a sign of severe tooth decay or an abscessed tooth .
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.
  • White, gray, brown, or black spots on your teeth.

If you have a toothache, see a dentist. To diagnose tooth decay, the dentist will:

  • Examine your teeth, using a pointed tool (an explorer) and a small mirror.
  • X-rays of your teeth will be taken to see decay that can’t be seen with the eye alone.
Font Resize
Contrast
Call Us Text Us