Tooth decay is damage that occurs when bacteria in your mouth make acids that eat away at a tooth. It can lead to a hole in the tooth, called a cavity. If not treated, tooth decay can cause pain, infection, and tooth loss. The deeper the cavity erodes the tooth the more damage is caused.
Parts of the Tooth
- The hard outer layer is called enamel.
- The middle layer is called dentin.
- The center of the tooth is called the pulp. It contains nerves and blood vessels.
What causes tooth decay?
Bacteria and food can cause tooth decay. A clear, sticky substance called plaque forms on your teeth and gums after eating. Plaque contains bacteria that combine with sugars in the food you eat which makes acids that decay the teeth and gums.If plaque is left on the teeth for extended periods of time the more the acids are able to destroy. Over time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, causing tooth decay.Things that make you more likely to have tooth decay include:
- Not brushing and flossing your teeth regularly
- Not seeing a dentist for checkups and cleanings
- Eating foods that are high in sugar and other carbohydrates
- Not getting enough fluoride.
- Not having enough saliva.
- Having diabetes.
- Smoking, using spit (smokeless) tobacco, or from breathing secondhand smoke.