What is Tooth Decay?

Many of you have probably heard of your dentist talk about tooth decay. “Brush your teeth twice a day, and floss once a day to prevent tooth decay.” But what is tooth decay, how does it happen and why?

Bacteria causes tooth decay. They make acids that can eat away at your teeth. Eating foods high in sugar and carbohydrates promote bacteria growth and in turn increase the amount of acids in the mouth. If not properly treated, tooth decay can cause pain, infection, and tooth loss.

The tooth has three layers; the hard outer layer is called the enamel, the middle layer is called dentin, the center of the tooth is called the pulp and contains nerves and blood vessels. See illustration below:


As decay worsens, it goes deeper into the tooth. You will need more immediate attention once decay hits the pulp of the tooth. Generally once decay hits the pulp, you will have an intense toothache. If you do not get proper treatment from a dentist before the decay gets too far, your tooth can die. Going to the dentist regularly will detect any decay in your teeth before it gets too far, and save you in expensive dental procedures later on.

Proper brushing and flossing helps to keep the bacteria in the mouth at a minimum. Now we know that bacteria is the cause of tooth decay, so to avoid tooth decay you need to prevent bacteria growth. You should also avoid high sugar foods as these promote the growth of bacteria. Additionally, not having enough saliva can cause bacteria to thrive in the mouth, as well as smoking cigarettes.

So, the moral of the story is to brush and floss daily, and see your dentist regularly. It is recommended you should see the dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and check up to ensure there is no evidence of tooth decay.