What Is Tooth Decay?

What Is Tooth Decay?
Posted on 01/05/2021

What Is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay happens when areas on the hard surface of your teeth become permanently damaged, forming openings or holes. These openings or holes are referred to as cavities or caries, and can be caused by a variety of factors including genetics, eating habits, and hygiene. Cavities are one of the world’s most popular health issues, and the CDC estimates that 91 percent of Americans over 20 have had at least one cavity.

What Causes Tooth Decay?

To understand how to prevent tooth decay, we must understand the cause. Cavities occur over time, and often develop because of a sticky, soft, colorless or light yellow film called plaque. Generally this is what happens:

Plaque Begins to Form

Plaque is the result of a diet full of sugar and starches, along with poor tooth brushing habits. Bacteria will begin to form on the sugar and starches that remain on the tooth, and form plaque When plaque stays on your teeth for long enough, it will harden, and become tartar, which makes plaque more difficult to remove. To avoid plaque from forming, limit the sugary and starchy foods you eat, and make sure to brush your teeth properly. Preventative measures for tooth decay are key to avoiding cavities down the road.

Plaque Erodes Your Teeth

Plaque can remove the minerals in the tooth’s hard outer enamel, which causes tiny holes in the tooth. This will allow bacteria and acid to reach the next layer of your tooth, which is softer and more susceptible to acid.

Tooth Decay Continues

Once the bacteria reaches the third layer of your tooth, it will become swollen and irritated, which will press your nerve and cause pain and discomfort on and around the tooth.

How to Prevent Cavities

Some degree of tooth decay is inevitable over time due to aging, but good oral hygiene habits will help keep your teeth in the best shape possible. As always, you can ask Dr. Larry Caldwell what’s right for you.

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste regularity, at least twice a day, but after every meal if possible
  • Drink tap water, as tap water usually has added fluoride, which helps to reduce tooth decay.
  • Eat foods that don’t stain teeth
  • Opt for dental sealants, which protect your back teeth’s chewing surfaces.
  • Rinse your mouth with fluoride if you are prone to cavities
  • Visit your dentist regularly for cleaning appointments and checkups


Contact Us Today for an Appointment!

If you think you may have a cavity, we offer dental exams with our highly experienced, professional dentists, Dr. Larry Caldwell and Dr. Derek Steinbring. Request an appointment today!