Tooth decay is the softening of your tooth enamel caused by acids. These acids are created when plaque bacteria break down sugar in your mouth.
It’s actually pretty simple. Decay (or softening of enamel) happens over time and, when tooth decay is not properly addressed, the result is a cavity—a defect left in the tooth. Teeth are covered with a hard, protective outer layer called enamel. But once the
enamel is weakened by acids produced by bacteria in your mouth, a pit or cavity can form in the tooth surface.
Tooth decay (such as a cavity) can occur for several reasons, one of which is when
foods containing carbohydrates become trapped between teeth and are not completely removed with brushing and flossing. The plaque bacteria generate acidic by-products that eat away at the tooth’s enamel, slowly creating holes in the teeth called cavities. Without treatment, these holes can grow larger over time and may even destroy the whole tooth.
Some of the major causes of tooth decay are sugary, sticky foods and beverages. The more sugar consumed, the more acid leading to decay gets produced by the bacteria in your mouth. Sugar combined with plaque weakens the enamel leaving you vulnerable to tooth decay. Each time you eat a sugary snack, your teeth are vulnerable to damage from the acids produced by the bacteria. It is important to understand the causes of tooth decay so you can learn the
proper way to care for your teeth and care for your health.
The most common and effective treatment for tooth decay and cavities is a filling, which stops the cavity from growing any larger. So, if you are experiencing any signs of tooth decay or a cavity, it is extremely important to see a dental professional immediately for treatment.
The use of products containing fluoride, such as fluoride toothpastes and an
anticavity rinse, can help prevent tooth decay and cavities. Fluoride flows into weak spots to help rebuild these areas before they can become cavities.
The most immediate form of treatment is to see your dental professional to have the cavity filled.
If you have dental fillings, it’s important to check your fillings for signs of wear and tear as part of your daily oral health routine. Over time, the edges of dental fillings can become rough, and the filling material can weaken and begin to break down. Rough or weak fillings may make plaque removal more difficult because plaque can build up in those areas.
If you develop tooth decay that has progressed beyond the process of eroding your tooth enamel and has created holes in your teeth, your dentist will likely recommend a filling. When you get a filling, your dentist will remove the decayed material from the tooth and replace it with something else to restore the shape of the tooth. Fillings can be made of tooth-colored resins, amalgam, or ceramic materials.
If your tooth decay is severe, your dentist will likely use a crown rather than a filling to repair the damage. A crown is larger than a filling and covers the top of the tooth once the decayed area is removed and filled. Crowns are usually made from porcelain, gold, or ceramic materials.
No matter what type of filling or crown you have, be sure to follow a complete oral care routine of brushing your teeth twice a day (especially with fluoride toothpaste) and daily flossing to remove plaque and prevent future tooth decay. There are lots of products designed to help you clean around dental work such as fillings and crowns. Your fillings and crowns should not need to be replaced unless they have recurrent decay, show signs of wear or become loose or defective in some way.
To help prevent tooth decay and cavities certain measures can be taken to help strengthen your teeth:
*Helps reduce plaque bacteria and inflammatory components associated with gingivitis, when used as an adjunct to brushing, flossing and regular professional care.
Children are very prone to cavities, often on the chewing surfaces where food gets trapped in crevices that kids are likely to miss while brushing. But adults get cavities as well, primarily on the tooth surfaces between their teeth. If teeth are spaced tightly, it’s hard to clean between them to remove
plaque. People who experience gum recession may also develop cavities on exposed root surfaces.
You should plan on seeing your dental professional twice a year for checkups. While checkups can vary, your dental professional will most likely examine your teeth and gums for any visible problems, including any signs of tooth decay, infection, and gum disease
This blog has been reviewed and approved
by Dr Robert Lee, a dental professional of 35 years
Dr Robert Lee
Dr Robert Lee is a dentist with more than thirty years of experience in the industry.
Graduating from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery and from the University of New South Wales with a Master of Business Administration, Robert’s career has taken him all over the world – from Australia to Germany to his current position in Chicago, where he is the founder of Denticus Inc., offering strategic dental consulting.
Robert has previously worked for Procter & Gamble as the Director of Professional Scientific Relations in both the Cincinnati and Sydney offices, being responsible for external relations and scientific exchange with leading professional associations and industry thought leaders. He was also responsible for all technical and scientific training for the professional teams in North America and Australia.
Robert has been assisting the team at Oral-B by fact-checking and reviewing our blogs on dental health. You can find a list of the blogs Robert has approved below:
Is There a Cure to Tooth Decay?
Stages of Tooth Decay
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: Causes and Treatments
Cavities Treatment: Ways to Treat Cavities
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