Tooth decay is the softening of your tooth enamel and refers to the damage of the structure of the tooth caused by acids that are created when plaque bacteria break down sugar in your mouth.
If this loss of mineral from the enamel is left untreated, a cavity, or hole in the tooth, can eventually occur. Without treatment, these holes can grow larger over time and may even destroy the whole tooth.
The plaque acids can also eat away at the next layer of the tooth (dentin) and eventually cause what is known as a root cavity. As a result, nerves in your teeth become exposed and you may feel pain when you eat or drink.
If you feel pain near the root of your tooth, chances are you may have some form of tooth decay and should consult with a dental professional.
Taking good care of your teeth is an important part of maintaining your overall health and wellness, and that includes preventing the dreaded dental cavity.
A dental cavity is one of the most common results of tooth decay and could be a sign of poor oral health and hygiene.
This is how we get cavities.
Causes of Cavities and Tooth Decay
There are a number of steps required for cavities to form, starting from the loss of tooth mineral (demineralization) to eating all the way through the tooth to cause a cavity.
Tooth decay also occurs when foods containing carbohydrates become trapped between teeth and are not completely removed with brushing and flossing.
Major causes of tooth decay are sugary, sticky foods and beverages. The more sugar consumed, the more acid, which gets produced leading to decay. Sugar combines with plaque to weaken the enamel leaving you vulnerable to tooth decay.
Each time you eat a sugary snack, your teeth are vulnerable to damage from the acids for the next 20 minutes. It is important to understand the causes of tooth decay so you can learn the proper way to care for your teeth and care for your health.
Cavity and tooth decay factors to watch out for:
Poor Oral Hygiene: Not brushing your teeth regularly allows plaque to build up and attack the tooth enamel.
Plaque Formation: Plaque is caused when bacteria, acid, food particles, and saliva all combine in your mouth. This plaque adheres to your teeth and builds up over time. The acid in plaque attacks the enamel of your tooth and eventually can cause holes in your teeth, otherwise known as cavities.
Dry Mouth: Saliva helps wash plaque from the teeth. If you have a dry mouth with very little saliva, plaque may build up more quickly.
Medical Problems: can contribute to a tooth cavity by causing acid from your stomach to flow back into your mouth. Similarly, bulimia increases the risk of a tooth cavity when the teeth are exposed to stomach acid during frequent vomiting.
In addition, some types of cancer treatment that expose the head and neck to radiation can promote a tooth cavity by changing the makeup of the saliva to promote increased bacterial growth.