Tooth decay is the destruction of tooth material, which includes:
Tooth decay, also known as caries, is caused by bacteria interacting with food particles left on the surface of the tooth. Bacteria feed on the sugars in the food and produce acids. These acids and bacteria combine to form a sticky substance called plaque. Plaque clings to your teeth and gives the acids a chance to eat away at the protective enamel of the tooth, eventually causing tooth decay. The process is reversible in the early stages through intake of calcium, phosphate, and fluoride.
All of us carry bacteria in our mouth which make us susceptible to tooth decay.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Risk factors include:
Tooth decay or caries is diagnosed by monitoring over a period of time. This involves clinical examination as well as x-rays.
A dentist checks for tooth decay by:
Sometimes tooth decay that is stopped before it reaches the dentin (second layer of the tooth) will repair itself.
Treatment for more severe decay includes:
When decay reaches the dentin, your dentist will treat it by:
Tooth decay that reaches the pulp and/or root of the tooth is treated with a root canal :
Removal of the tooth is required if:
If the tooth is removed, it will be replaced with:
If you are diagnosed with tooth decay, follow your dentist's instructions .
Measures that help prevent and stop tooth decay include:
Talk to your dentist about the use of a sealant, a protective plastic covering which is applied to the chewing surfaces of teeth. This is the location where initial tooth decay starts. Sealants usually last anywhere from 5 to 10 years.
Prevention is particularly important for children, especially after the permanent teeth come in. Supplemental fluoride in early childhood (with dose adjustment for the amount of natural or added fluoride in local water supplies) can prevent early caries. Fluoride can also be applied to permanent teeth as a long acting “varnish,” though revarnishing is usually necessary at least twice yearly
Academy of General Dentistry
American Dental Association
Canadian Dental Association
The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association
American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.ada.org .
The Merck Manual of Medical Information—Home Edition . Simon and Schuster, Inc.; 2000.
Murdoch-Kinch CA, Mclean ME. Minimally invasive dentistry. J Am Dent Assoc . 2003;134(4):412-414.
National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.nih.gov/ .
Selwitz RH, Ismail AL, Pitts NB .Dental caries. Lancet . 2007:369(9555):51-9.
Last reviewed November 2008 by Laura Morris-Olson, DMD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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