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Tooth Decay

aka Cavity

Tooth decay is caused when bacteria,acid, food particles and saliva mix together and form plaque that sticks to the teeth. If this plaque is not removed, it can lead to the complicating factors such as a cavity, a Tooth Abscess, tartar, Gingivitis, and possibly Periodontitis.

Tooth Decay Symptoms

Symptoms may include a dark spot or visible hole on the tooth surface, and the tooth may be painful or sensitive to heat or cold.

Tooth Decay Causes

Tooth decay is a very common condition and can occur at any age but is more common in children and young adults. It comes about when normal bacteria of the mouth combines with acids, food particles and saliva resulting in plaque, a sticky substance that sticks to the teeth.

The acids in the plaque cause continual destruction of the enamel (outer layer of tooth) and dentin (layer below the enamel) with the formation of a cavity being seen. The tooth may continue to decay until it involves the pulp (layer below the dentin that contains the blood vessels and nerves), which can result in pain and cause the tooth to be destroyed and lost.

If the plaque is not removed it can mineralize into tartar and lead to irritation and inflammation of the gums (Gingivitis) and possibly Periodontitis, which is the inflammation and infection of the ligaments and bones that support the teeth.

Foods that contain carbohydrates such as sugar and starch put a person at higher risk for tooth decay.

Tooth Decay Diagnosis

Observation of the aforementioned symptoms may be noted and should be evaluated by a dentist. However, most cavities are discovered during a routine dental examination. The examination may include x-rays, which can detect cavities before they are visible on the surface of the tooth.

Tooth Decay Treatment

Treatment starts with preventative measures, which include good dental hygiene such as regular brushing, flossing, and regular check-ups by a dentist. A dentist or physician may prescribe fluoride tablets to be taken while the teeth are developing in a young child. Daily intake of refined carbohydrates or sugars should be minimized since they promote tooth decay.

If a cavity is found, the decayed tissue is removed from the tooth and replaced by a filling that is typically a material such as silver alloy, gold, porcelain or composite resin.

A crown or “cap” may be used by a dentist to treat tooth decay if the damage to the tooth is extensive or there is only a small amount of the normal tooth structure present.

A root canal is used when the nerve of the tooth dies. In this case, the pulp and the decayed section of tooth are removed and filled with a sealing material.