Tooth Decay FAQ
Learn about the causes and treatments for tooth decay.
Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases in America, with some reports showing that 1 in 5 Americans has untreated tooth decay. The great tragedy of this situation is that while without treatment tooth decay can lead to pain, infections, and tooth loss, tooth decay is actually extremely easy to treat and even prevent. We hope this FAQ will help you get a better understanding of tooth decay and inspire you to come to California Dental Group for treatment.
How Does Tooth Decay Happen?
Tooth decay occurs due to the action of plaque bacteria, which accumulate in a film on teeth. The bacteria feed on sugars in the foods that we eat and produce acid. This acid eats away at healthy tooth structure, first eroding the tooth enamel, then the dentin, and finally reaching the pulp of the tooth where the nerves are.
What Are the Risk Factors for Tooth Decay?
Possible risk factors for tooth decay include:
- Frequent snacking, especially on foods high in sugars or carbs
- Poor oral hygiene, especially going to sleep without brushing
- Drymouth—without a healthy flow of saliva, teeth are at greater risk for cavities
- Receding gums—the parts of teeth normally covered by gums lack enamel and are therefore more susceptible to decay
Where Is Tooth Decay Most Likely to Occur?
Tooth decay is most likely to occur in all those nooks and crannies that are hard to clean just by brushing your teeth. This includes:
- Natural grooves, pits, or fissures on teeth (especially molars)
- Interdental spaces (spaces between teeth)
- Along the gum line
- On the back of wisdom teeth
- Around dental work like bridges and crowns
- Beneath fillings
How Is Tooth Decay Treated?
Depending on the extent of the decay, your dentist may be able to offer a variety of treatments for tooth decay. All of them will involve two important steps:
- Removing damaged tooth structure
- Preventing recolonization of bacteria
For example, for a simple cavity your dentist could provide a filling. This would involve drilling out all the damaged tooth structure and then sealing off the area with a white composite filing or silver amalgam filling to prevent further decay. For large cavities, multiple cavities, or extensive decay throughout the tooth, a crown and/or root canal may be in order.
Can I Prevent Tooth Decay?
Yes, tooth decay is easily prevented simply by taking steps to control the population of plaque bacteria in the mouth and the amount of food available to those bacteria. Basically all you need to do is follow your dentist’s recommendation of brushing after every meal and flossing once per day to keep tooth decay under control. Don’t forget to also get your annual professional dental cleaning and exam.