What it is: Tooth decay is a bacterial infection in the tooth also known as caries.
How do cavities happen?
Some of the bacteria that live in our mouths use sugars in our food to produce acids. These acids eat away at the enamel. In the early stages a white spot may appear. This affected enamel can repair through minerals in saliva, and in fact, this is happening all the time in our mouths. As the decay progresses, and reaches the inner dentin, it is irreversible. Once in the dentin, bacteria invades and proliferates, causing the tooth to decay.
How can I avoid tooth decay?
- Use fluoride
- Avoid frequent acidic foods and drinks
- Avoid frequent sugary foods and drinks
- Good oral hygiene: brushing and flossing
- Apply dental sealants when teeth first erupt (usually around ages 6 and 12)
- Regular dental check-ups and x-rays
How is tooth decay treated?
Early white spot lesions are reversible and chances greatly increase with better oral hygiene, improved diet and the addition of fluoride. Once a true cavity is present, the dentist will repair it by removing the infected dentin and enamel and filling it with a composite resin. Larger cavities may require crowns.
What happens if I don’t have my cavities filled?
Once a tooth is full of bacterial decay, they proliferate freely where they can happily avoid your toothbrush. This raises the bacterial count if bad bacteria in your entire mouth, throwing your oral flora out of balance and putting your other teeth at a far greater risk for decay. Caries is an infectious disease which must be treated. When a cavity is allowed to progress beyond the dentin into the pulp, a root canal becomes necessary. It is important to diagnose and treat cavities while they are small for optimal oral health.