Tooth decay is the deterioration of tooth structure. The worst cause is plaque, which forms in the mouth from bacteria, acids, food debris and saliva, then clings to teeth. Plaque acids dissolve tooth enamel, creating holes we know all too well as cavities, or caries.
Cavities can affect children and adults alike. In adults, receding gums caused by gum disease can expose tooth roots to plaque. Additionally, existing fillings can weaken over time, causing cracks where bacteria can invade and cause more decay.
X-rays and probing with dental instruments help us discover tooth decay during check-ups. If tooth decay has advanced, holes are sometimes visible and patients may get toothaches, especially after eating sweet, hot or cold foods and drinks. Call our office anytime you are experiencing a toothache.
If decay is not extensive, we are usually able to remove the decayed portion of the tooth and replace it with a filling of silver alloy, gold, porcelain or composite resin. With extensive decay, where there is a limited amount of healthy tooth structure intact, we fit a crown over the remaining tooth.
If decay has reached and killed the nerve, we do a root canal. The center of the tooth is removed, along with any decay. The roots are filled with a sealing material, and a crown is installed.
Good oral hygiene practices at home, combined with your regularly scheduled professional cleanings and checkups, can greatly reduce your likelihood of getting cavities. Plaque begins to build up on teeth within 20 minutes after eating or drinking, so brushing and flossing regularly after meals and snacks is important. Also try to minimize snacking, or constant sipping of sugary drinks or sucking on candies and mints. We often advise dental sealants for our younger patients as an extra shield against plaque buildup.
For more information and tips regarding tooth decay, please talk to any of our friendly and helpful team members.