The Short Story
Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases in today’s society. It can attack anyone. Tooth decay is caused by food that is left on your teeth. These bits of food can leave a sticky, colourless film on your teeth called plaque. The germs that live in the plaque make acid that can eat holes in your teeth and cause a cavity.
It is important to brush and floss your teeth after eating and before the food particles can turn into plaque.
Tooth decay is a process that occurs slowly over time. It usually begins at the outer layer of tooth enamel where plaque has formed. This phase is usually painless and often goes unnoticed.
The decay then penetrates the dentin, which is connected to the nerve cells in the pulp of the tooth. You may begin to notice increased sensitivity or even some pain, although this phase can also be difficult to detect.
Since the decay process speeds up at this phase, the softer tissue becomes affected and cannot support the enamel. It is at this point that the tooth may break down and cavities begin to form.
If the decay is not treated, it may reach the pulp of the tooth, which contains the nerves, resulting in pain, usually in the form of a toothache. The tooth may die if the decay is not treated.
An infection may cause an abscess to form and can spread to nearby teeth or other parts of the body. Caught early, a root canal procedure can usually save the tooth. If the tooth cannot be saved, it may need to be removed.
Because the early phases of tooth decay are painless and usually go unnoticed, it is very important to visit your dentist every six months for your cleaning and check-up.