What is Tooth Decay?

Garner Dentist Serving Patients From Cary, North Carolina and Surrounding Communities

As one of the most common tooth issues that anyone will face, everybody has some experience with tooth decay – but what is it? Tooth decay is when bacteria in your mouth make acids that eat away at the tooth and, if it isn’t treated, it can lead to pain, infection and the loss of afflicted teeth!

In short: tooth decay is what happens when you don’t treat your teeth properly and don’t give them the cleaning that they require to stay healthy.

Causes of Tooth Decay

A cocktail of bacteria and food is the leading cause of tooth decay. Plaque is always growing on your teeth and gums; this plaque contains bacteria, which feed on the sugars in what you eat and, in turn, make acids. Those acids attack your teeth and, after enough time, they destroy the enamel of your teeth – suddenly, tooth decay!

How Do I Know I Have Cavities?

When tooth decay first sets in you might not notice – it’s not until the cavity has been present for a while that one will notice pain and/or sensitivity from the cavity or infection. When the decay hits the nerve in the tooth, that’s when things can get really complicated – the tooth can die at this point and if the problem isn’t treated, an abscess could develop. Trust me, you don’t want this to happen – it’s painful, it’s messy, it’s not pleasant at all, as one can imagine.

How is Tooth Decay Diagnosed?

Your dentist will be able to figure out if you have this issue with an oral examination. Cracks, holes and other signs of trouble can easily be detected by your dentist, even if an x-ray is required to identify decay that hasn’t caused a pain reaction. There might be some sensitivity when the dentist is poking and prodding at teeth because tooth decay does cause the afflicted teeth to soften.

How is Tooth Decay Treated?

Treatment depends upon the severity of the issue. Minor tooth decay can be reversed with fluoride, cavities can be fixed with a filling, severe tooth decay may require a crown or root canal. If it’s really bad, your dentist will have to remove the tooth.

If tooth decay isn’t treated quickly it can and will get worse. Visit your dentist for frequent check-ups to prevent the loss of your teeth!

How Can I Prevent Tooth Decay?

Daily brushing and flossing are the best ways to prevent tooth decay. Select a toothpaste with fluoride in it, and if you use mouthwash the same suggestion applies. A toothbrush with soft, rounded bristles is ideal. If you can get your hands on an electric toothbrush that has a rotating and oscillating action, that is your best bet, as they are most effective at cleaning teeth.

Making changes to your diet is also a good step toward a healthy smile. Eat whole grains, vegetables and food that’s low in saturated fat and sodium; eat cheeses, yogurt, milk and chew sugar-free gum. All are good for your teeth! Cut down on sugar and avoid a snack before bedtime – your mouth doesn’t make much saliva while you sleep, so it isn’t cleaning your mouth the way it would be during the day.