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What is tooth decay?
by: Dental Assistant Team

Here is a question we get asked often: "What is tooth decay?"

Tooth decay, is often referred to as cavity or dental carie. Tooth decay is a common disorder causing the breakdown of healthy tooth enamel and sometimes dentin. Cavities are little holes in the teeth causing damage to the structure of teeth. It can cause pain at times as it is an infection. It can also lead to tooth abscess if the pulp is reached, and can lead to the loss of the tooth when left untreated.

How does tooth decay occur?
Bacteria in our mouth change food into acids. That acid, along with bacteria, food, and saliva forms what we call plaque. Plaque forms within 20 min after eating, so, image what snacking can do!

If that plaque is not removed regularly, it builds tartar that sticks to our teeth. Certain food, like sugar, carbohydrates and sugary drinks play a big factor in developing tooth decay.

Accumulation of plaque and tartar can also affect your gums, resulting in the very common infection known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is what we call an active infection which generates pain.

The acid in plaque will slowly eat the healthy tooth structure away, first damaging the enamel, making its way in the dentin, then eventually reaching even deeper into the pulp when not addressed in its early stages.

The good news is, when detected on time, early treatment is easy and painless for your mouth and your wallet.

How do we treat cavities?
First step is to remove the active decay, than the tooth is filled with resin in most cases, although a lot of dentists still use amalgam. Today's technology offers wonderful materials which are an healthier alternative to amalgan, and can match the color of your teeth. It is important to note that amalgam often contains mercury which has been linked to an array of negative side effects and diseases.

For more severe tooth decay, crowns, onlays or inlays can be recommended depending how much of the decay has reached into the dentin. In case you need a crown, an onlay, or an inlay, it will be a two visit process, as a laboratory will need to make the restoration that will be delivered during the second visit.

In the case of more advanced decay, if the nerve is reached, a root canal might be recommended (as long as the tooth can be saved). After the root canal is finished we can prepare the tooth and make an impression for a permanent crow/restoration to be made by the dental lab.

In extreme case, if the decay is too advanced, the tooth will have to be removed.

So, how can you prevent tooth decay?
Oral hygiene is at the heart of preventing tooth decay. Home care (flossing, brushing, etc), regular check up including x-rays once a year, and a professional cleaning at least twice a year will help you prevent tooth decay. It is important to note that the ADA recommends professional teeth cleaning to be done every three to four months. Following these steps is your best option for early detection and prevention.

You should be brushing at least twice a day or after each meal if possible, flossing at least once a day can go a long way to avoiding cavities or treat them early.

If you have a sweet tooth, by all means honor your cravings, but when possible brush or rinse your mouth with water right after eating to minimize that acid building if you cannot brush right away. If you drink soda or sugary drinks, do not sip it all day, and if you like candies and mints don't suck them all day either. Enjoy them, and think of your oral care: rinse, brush and floss!!!

All these tips can help avoiding building that plaque so damaging to your teeth's health.

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If you have any questions regarding this post, contact us at: 561-265-1998 , one of our representatives will be happy to assist you.

Article date: Apr. 16 2013

Type: Tooth Decay And Cavities

Location: Boca Raton - Palm Beach County


  • Tooth Decay
  • Cavity
  • Dental Carie
  • Cause Pain
  • Gums
  • Gingivitis
  • Active Infection
  • Acid In Plaque
  • Treat Cavities
  • Dentists
  • Amalgam
  • Severe Tooth Decay
  • Root Canal
  • Crown
  • Dental Lab
  • X-rays
  • Professional Teeth Cleaning

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