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Tooth decay is one of the most common of all disorders, second only to the common cold. It usually occurs in children and young adults but can affect any person. It is the most important cause of tooth loss in younger people.

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that are common to the mouth. The bacteria use the food we eat, especially simple sugars and carbohydrates, to live and reproduce. One of the by-products of their metabolism is acid. The acid that is produced can dissolve the mineral structure of the tooth. Bacteria also make a substance called plaque that help them stick on the tooth surface. Bacteria congregate in the plaque and concentrate their acid causing tooth destruction and gingival (gum) inflammation.

Once the cavity penetrates the super hard outer surface or enamel of the tooth, it can spread and penetrate deeper into the tooth causing pain. Bacteria can invade the tooth and penetrate into the innermost layer of the tooth where the living cells and blood supply reside. When this occurs the tooth can become significantly inflamed and infected. The infection can then spread outside the tooth causing swelling and an abscess. It is important to treat a cavity as early as possible to avoid pain and infection. An examination by a dentist along with the appropriate x-rays can be used to determine if you have a cavity or cavities.

Once you have been diagnosed with a cavity, it can usually be restored with filling material. If the tooth is significantly inflamed it may require a root canal, a filling in the root, to relieve the pain and/or infection. Another option for a significantly infected tooth is removal.

You can prevent cavities by removing the bacterial plaque from your teeth daily. This can be accomplished by brushing with a fluoride containing toothpaste at least twice a day and flossing daily. Seeing your dentist regularly and having your teeth cleaned professionally can help prevent the occurrence of tooth decay and can aid in the early detection of a cavity.

If you have more questions about cavities, please contact us.