Tooth decay is a process that results in cavities or dental caries. Plaque is a clear sticky substance that is always forming on your teeth. The bacteria in the plaque feeds on the sugar in the food you eat. As it eats the sugars, the bacteria creates acid, that eats away at the tooth. The aftermath of this process is most commonly referred to as a cavity, and if left untreated can develop into even more serious issues.
The tooth is made up of three layers. The hard outer layer is the enamel, the middle layer is called dentin, and the center of the tooth, where the nerves and blood vessels are contained, is called the pulp. The more of these layers that are affected by decay, the worse the damage, and the higher the likelihood of pain, infection and tooth loss.
A major component to avoiding tooth decay is regular dental checkups and maintaining ongoing basic oral hygiene techniques. You can easily prevent tooth decay with regular brushing and flossing, avoiding foods that are high in sugar, avoiding habits (such as smoking) that affect the mouth’s ability to wash away bacteria and regular dental cleanings.
It is particularly critical to ensure that children maintain healthy oral hygiene techniques to avoid cavities. As their teeth are still developing, the minerals of the teeth are not yet strong leaving them more susceptible to acid wear.
Tooth decay usually does not cause pain until you have a cavity or an infected tooth. When this occurs, it is diagnosed by an oral examination and x rays. Treatment for tooth decay depends on the extent of the decay. Slight tooth decay may be reversed by using fluoride. To fix cavities caused by mild tooth decay, a dentist will remove the decay and then prepare the tooth for a filling. For more severe tooth decay, a crown or root canal may be necessary. In extreme cases, the tooth may need to be removed.