Tooth Decay

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Tooth Decay

What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is the process that results in a cavity (dental caries). It occurs when bacteria in your mouth make acids that eat away at a tooth. If not treated, tooth decay can cause pain, infection, and tooth loss. However if tooth decay has already occurred, the dentist will make an assessment as to what the treatment options are for your tooth. Depending on the extent of decay, treatment options can include: a conventional filling, root canal therapy or a tooth extraction.See pictures of a tooth and tooth decay on the right. You can easily prevent tooth decay by brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, seeing your dentist for teeth cleaning and checkups, and avoiding foods that are high in sugar.

What causes tooth decay?

The combination of bacteria and food causes tooth decay. A clear, sticky substance called plaque that contains bacteria is always forming on your teeth and gums. As the bacteria feed on the sugars in the food you eat, they make acids. The acids attack the teeth for 20 minutes or more after eating. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.

What are the symptoms?

Tooth decay usually does not cause symptoms until you have a cavity or an infected tooth. When this occurs, a toothache is the most common symptom. How is tooth decay diagnosed? Your dentist diagnoses tooth decay by: Asking questions about your past dental and medical problems and care, examining your teeth and possibly taking x-rays. Examining your teeth, using a pointed tool and a small mirror. Taking X-rays of your teeth and mouth.

What are the areas of tooth prone for decay?

The grinding surface of teeth usually has many grooves and pits and is therefore prone for accumulation of food and microorganisms. Thus the grinding surface of the back teeth shows high incidence of dental decay. In addition the area around the contact between the teeth, is also the starting point of decay. Other areas of decay are the pits found on the outer surface of the molars and small pits on the inner side of the upper front teeth.

Is any tooth resistant to decay?

No, but usually lower incisors, canines and upper canines are least prone. The first permanent molars are most commonly affected by caries as their grinding surface is often full of deep pits and grooves that tend to accumulate food and microorganisms. In addition the first permanent molars erupt early at a time when the oral hygiene of children is poor. Proper, regular tooth brushing with fluoride containing tooth pastes can help to make the tooth more resistant to decay.

Does decay spread from one tooth to other?

No, it does not. However, it can start on many teeth simultaneously.

Do all cavities on tooth cause pain?

The pulp of the tooth contains the nerve endings and blood vessels and is protected by the outer enamel and dentin layer. Shallow cavities at the depth of enamel and the surface of dentin are painless. As the depth of the cavity increases in dentin the tooth becomes painful on eating hot, cold, sour or sweet foods. Once the decay reaches pulp the pain is intolerable.

Can a badly decayed tooth be saved?

If sufficient sound tooth structure remains, then the tooth can be saved.

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Tooth Decay

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