What is Tooth Decay?
Online Dental Education Library
This online library is intended to provide you with general concepts in Dental education. Since this is prepared by outside sources the information may not represent the actual procedures that we perform in our office and it may not represent our actual opinions on the information. Our dental team is well versed on our own opinions and procedures and we are dedicated to clarify any of this information for you. Keeping this in mind, please use this dental library as a guide to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.
Plaque is an insidious substance—a colorless, sticky film—that blankets your teeth and creates an environment in which bacteria erode tooth enamel, cause gum irritation, infection in inner structures such as pulp and the roots, and in extreme cases, tooth loss.
Some of the biggest culprits causing plaque are foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates, including soda beverages, some juices, candy and many kinds of pasta, breads and cereals.
Plaque also can attack fillings and other restorations in your mouth, which can lead to more costly treatment down the road.
Plaque is the main cause of tooth decay. It can also cause your gums to become irritated, inflamed, and bleed. Over time, the plaque underneath your gums may cause periodontal disease, which can lead to bone loss and eventual tooth loss.
Inside your teeth, decay can gradually destroy the inner layer, or dentin. It can also destroy the pulp, which contains blood vessels, nerves and other tissues, as well as the root.
Periodontal disease is advanced gum disease. This serious condition occurs when the structures that support your teeth—the gums and bone—break down from the infection. Pain, hypersensitivity and bleeding are some of the signs of periodontal disease.
Simple Preventative Measures
The two best defenses against tooth decay and gum disease are a healthy, well-balanced diet and good oral hygiene, including daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing and rinsing. Most public drinking water contains fluoride, but if you are unsure of your water supply, then use a good quality mouth rinse containing fluoride.
A good way to help your oral health between brushing is chewing sugarless gum; this stimulates your body's production of saliva, a powerful chemical that actually neutralizes plaque formation and rinses decay-causing food particles and debris from your mouth.
In some cases, our office can prescribe anti-cavity rinses or apply special anti-cavity varnishes or sealants to help fight decay.