What is Tooth Decay?

Dental jaw model with teeth, roots, gums, gum disease, tooth decay and plaque over white background, close-up. Dentistry treatment, whitening and prosthetics of teeth

If tooth decay progresses, it can result in cavities, infections, and even tooth loss. As such, it’s crucial to understand what causes tooth decay and how you can mitigate the potential risks. If you have any dental concerns, it’s in your best interest to schedule an appointment with our proficient general dentistry/dentists located in Basking Ridge & Morristown, NJ, who can help you maintain your oral health.

What Causes Tooth Decay?

Although you may not realize it, our mouths are full of bacteria. While some bacteria can be beneficial, others can be harmful. These bacteria mix with food to form a soft, sticky film called plaque. The bacteria in plaque use the sugar and starch in what we eat and drink to make acids. This acid can attack the tooth’s enamel, resulting in the loss of minerals.

When a tooth is exposed to this acid, such as when you repeatedly consume food or drink high in sugar and starch, the enamel loses minerals. As a result, you may notice a white spot on your teeth where minerals have been lost. This is an early sign of tooth decay, which is damage to a tooth’s surface.

Fortunately, you can stop or reverse decay, as enamel can repair itself if you take better care of your teeth and limit sugary/starchy foods and drinks. Fluoride from toothpaste and your salvia helps the enamel repair itself by replacing the lost minerals. It’s important to understand that your teeth go through a natural process of losing minerals and regaining them throughout the day. However, if you don’t care for your teeth, your animal will lose minerals. If the tooth decay continues, more minerals are lost, and the enamel is weakened and destroyed, forming a cavity. A cavity is a hole in your teeth that is permanent damage. A dentist can repair a cavity with a filing.

What Are the Symptoms?

Poor dental hygiene and consuming too many sugary or starchy foods and drinks are the main risk factors for tooth decay. Dentists typically discover tooth decay and cavities by examining your teeth and probing them with dental instruments. They will usually ask if you have experienced any symptoms during an exam. In some cases, they may order a dental X-ray to examine your mouth more closely. It’s crucial to visit your dentist for routine check-ups regularly. People with lower risk should have a check-up one to two times a year, while those with a higher risk of oral diseases should see a dentist every three to six months. Early detection is vital as tooth decay that is left untreated can result in pain, infections, and even tooth loss.

Unfortunately, early tooth decay usually has no symptoms. However, as it advances, it can cause toothache (tooth pain) and tooth sensitivity to sweets, hot or cold foods, and drinks. You may notice white or brown stains on the surface of your tooth. If the tooth becomes infected, an abscess may form, which can cause pain, facial swelling, and a fever.

There are several treatment options for tooth decay and cavities. The treatment will depend on the severity of the oral problem:

  • Fluoride treatments
  • Filings
  • Root Canal
  • Extraction (pulling the tooth)

To prevent tooth decay, it’s imperative to practice good oral health, make smart food choices, avoid tobacco products, and see a dentist for regular check-ups and professional cleanings. If you have any dental concerns, please don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Dental Associates of Basking Ridge, as our team is committed to providing patients with the highest quality dentistry in the most compassionate environment.

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