tooth decay

What Causes Tooth Decay?

Cavities in your teeth are no fun. Tooth decay leads to cavities (which are simply holes that develop in your teeth) and is usually a result of improper oral hygiene. Unless you have inherited weak teeth from your parents, teeth that develop decay and cavities easily, you should be able to prevent tooth decay through regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash. If you lead an exceedingly busy life, you may think you don’t have time to brush two or three times each day. But this mindset will cause you pain down the road and there are few pains like serious dental pain caused by decayed teeth. No matter how busy you are — you have time to care for your teeth.

Bacteria and food in your mouth cause tooth decay. A clear, sticky substance called plaque is always forming on your teeth and gums. Plaque contains bacteria that feed on the sugars in food. As the bacteria feed, they create acids. Over time if left in your mouth due to poor hygiene, these acids destroy your tooth enamel, the outer layer of the teeth. A cavity in the tooth can develop.

Now the more sensitive layers of the tooth — the dentin and the pulp in the middle — are exposed. If a cavity allows the pulp to be exposed to food particles, debris, and bacteria, you risk losing the tooth. An infection in the pulp will require at least a root canal, possibly a tooth extraction.

With that kind of damage comes excruciating pain because now the nerves in the tooth have been exposed. Still wish you hadn’t brushed your teeth more on those business trips?

Treatment for this kind of decay could be a filling, where the decay is removed and the cavity is filled with composite, silver, or other materials. To save the tooth, a root canal may be necessary to clean out the inside of the tooth, replacing the pulp with gutta percha (rubber material). If the decay is severe, you will need a crown for all or part of the tooth.

Most cases of decay are easily preventable by diligent brushing and flossing. Brush at least twice a day, preferably three times. Floss once. An ounce of prevention is worth a mile of painful treatment.