A healthy mouth usually fights tooth decay successfully. The mouth contains protective bacteria and is bathed in saliva which neutralizes acids, remineralizes teeth and washes away food particles. However, if this balance is disturbed, harmful bacteria cab cause tooth decay.
- What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay refers to an area on a tooth that has been destroyed by acid created by bacteria in dental plaque. Plaque is a sticky material made of mucus, saliva, food particles and bacteria. Even after a thorough cleaning, plaque begins to form within hours.
- How does it occur?
The main cause of tooth decay is plaque. Bacteria in plaque feed mainly on simple sugars and starches in food. Bacteria create an acid that gradually destroys the enamel of a tooth, forming a cavity. Enamel is the outer, hard, glossy layer of the chewing surfaces of a tooth.
- What happens to the enamel?
After the enamel is destroyed, the acid attacks the soft inner layer of the tooth (the dentin). This causes pain and the cavity gets bigger.
- Bacteria can next invade the exposed pulp at the center of the tooth and destroys the nerve. At this point root canal therapy (to remove the damaged nerves in the tooth) or pulling the tooth is necessary.
- What are the symptoms?
Early dental decay often causes no discomfort. After decay has destroyed much of the hard outer portion of the tooth, you may get a toothache when you eat hot, cold or sweet foods.
- If the cavity is not treated, decay destroys more of the tooth and the pain worsens. In addition to pain, you may notice bad breath and bad taste in your mouth.
- How is it diagnosed?
When checking for signs of decay, your dentist may look for:
- Destruction of tooth structure
- Broken or leaking fillings or crowns
- Softened areas on the enamel or root surface
- Look after your tooth so that it can last you longer.
Please take and follow your dentist’s advise.